John Spilsbury (cartographer)

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"Europe divided into its kingdoms, etc." (1766) Believed to be the first purpose made jigsaw puzzle.

John Spilsbury (1739 – 3 April 1769)[1] was a British cartographer and engraver. He is credited as the inventor of the jigsaw puzzle.


He was the second of three sons of Thomas Spilsbury; the engraver Jonathan Spilsbury was his elder brother, and the two have sometimes been confused.[2] He served as an apprentice to Thomas Jefferys, the Royal Geographer to King George III.

Spilsbury created the first puzzle in 1767 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 marrying Harry Ashby who had been apprentice to Spilsbury, and who continued to sell puzzles.[2]


  1. ^ Hannas, Linda. The English jigsaw puzzle, 1760-1890. Wayland, 1972, p. 20 (preview, p. 20, at Google Books)
  2. ^ 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.)

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