I was interested to read in the paper that sales of jigsaw puzzles have taken off during this time of self-isolation. Did you know that the name is a misnomer? No jigsaw is actually used to cut the individual pieces. A London cartographer and engraver named John Spilsbury is credited with creating the first jigsaw around the year 1760 (he used a marquetry saw). Early jigsaws were maps on thin sheets of wood, and they were used to teach children their geography. The name ‘jigsaw’ was only first used about 1880.
The popularity of jigsaws soared during the Great Depression – they were cheap and could be used again and again. So, what we are seeing now is not a new phenomenon. It was during the Depression that jigsaws were created that could appeal more to adults. Today a huge variety of jigsaws are available, from 3D, no picture at all, panorama puzzles and even online jigsaws. If you have a seriously large amount of time on your hands, you could try the world’s largest jigsaw (produced by a Czech company) which depicts lots of animals and has 52,110 pieces.
I love doing jigsaws, and you won’t be surprised to hear that my favourites are literary in theme. I have three Jane Austen ones (with illustrations and quotes), there are many available depicting scenes from the life of Dickens and his characters, many Shakespeare puzzles, and I’ve completed a Lady of Shalott one with the glorious Waterhouse painting. Amazon sells a ‘Famous Writers’ one which greatly tempts me, and also spotted on the web are these others: Mark Twain’s Hannibal, Wordsworth’s Rydal Mount, one featuring literary heroines, several featuring bookshops, and one depicting vintage book covers.
So … if you need some literary therapy in the form of a puzzle, you might like to consider some of my suggestions. As you try and place all the pieces, ponder this quote by Sigmund Freud: “Even if all parts of a problem seem to fit together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, one has to remember that the probable need not necessarily be the truth and the truth not always probable.”