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John Spilsbury (cartographer)

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John Spilsbury
Died3 April 1769(1769-04-03) (aged 29–30)
Known forInventor of the jigsaw puzzle
"Europe divided into its kingdoms, etc." (1766) Believed to be the first purpose-made jigsaw puzzle

John Spilsbury (/I.P.A. spɪlsbəri/ 1739 – 3 April 1769)[1] was a British cartographer and engraver. He is credited as the inventor of the jigsaw puzzle. Spilsbury created them for educational purposes, and called them "Dissected Maps".[2][3]

Life and works


John Spilsbury was the second of three sons of Thomas Spilsbury; the engraver Jonathan Spilsbury was his elder brother, and the two have sometimes been confused.[4] He served as an apprentice to Thomas Jefferys, the Royal Geographer to King George III.

Spilsbury created the first puzzle in 1766 as an educational tool to teach geography. He affixed a world map to wood and carved each country out to create the first puzzle. Sensing a business opportunity, he created puzzles on eight themes - the World, Europe, Asia, Africa, America, England and Wales, Ireland, and Scotland.

Spilsbury married Sarah May of Newmarket, Suffolk in 1761. After his death she ran his business for a period, then married Harry Ashby who had been apprentice to Spilsbury, and who continued to sell puzzles.[4]


  1. ^ Hannas, Linda. The English jigsaw puzzle, 1760-1890. Wayland, 1972, p. 20 (preview, p. 20, at Google Books)
  2. ^ "The Time of the Jigsaws". BBC. 15 November 2016.
  3. ^ "Top 10 facts about jigsaw puzzles". Daily Express. 15 November 2016.
  4. ^ a b Sloman, Susan. "Spilsbury, Jonathan". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/26154. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)