Don’t panic, being a Dissectologist is simply someone who loves doing jigsaw puzzles. Ann Evans takes a closer look at the humble jigsaw puzzle.
As so many of us are confined to staying home due to the Covid-19 virus, more and more people are passing the time by indulging in that good old pastime – the humble jigsaw puzzle.
Jigsaw puzzles have been around since the 1760s. In those days map makers – cartographers, would paste maps onto wood and cut them into small pieces, cutting along the boundaries and so creating an educational puzzle to teach children about geography. King George III and Queen Charlotte’s children were amongst those enjoying the new teaching tool.
The very first jigsaw is credited to London cartographer and engraver, John Spilsbury. His puzzles were known as Dissected Maps. He glued a world map to wood and carved each country out to create the first puzzle. He went on to create puzzles on eight themes: The World, Europe, Asia, Africa, America, England and Wales, Ireland and Scotland. After his death at the age of 30, his widow continued the business, later marrying Harry Ashby, his apprentice, and continued selling the puzzles.
From the 1880s cardboard jigsaws began to take the place of wooden ones, although deemed to be of poorer quality, they were cheaper and easier to make. Of course, jigsaws have moved on greatly since then, depicting beautiful imagery and covering every theme imaginable. Everything from baked beans and trays of doughnuts to fine art and distant galaxies. Numbers of piece range from just a few for toddlers to many thousands for discerning adults; plus 3D jigsaws in all shapes and sizes.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the jigsaw puzzle with the most pieces consisted of 551,232. When completed it measured 14.85 x 23.20m (47ft 8.64 ins x 76ft 1.38ins.) It involved 1,600 students of the University of Economics of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, at the Phu Tho Stadium on 24th September 2011. The finished jigsaw depicted a lotus flower with six petals symbolising the six areas of knowledge envisaged by the Mindmap study method. It took the students 17 hours to complete.
There has even been a human jigsaw puzzle. This consisted of 1,702 people and was achieved by the Association for the Protection of Persons with Autism – Pervasive Development disorders (P.D.D.). It took place in Maniakoi, Greece, on 29th March 2019 and made it into the Guinness Book of World Records. The aim was to raise awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorder and to show the community that if united they can achieve many great things, and that despite being different, we are all equal.
However, the largest ever jigsaw puzzle was achieved by DMCC (UAE) in Dubai, on 7th July 2018. It had 12,320 pieces and measured 6,122.68 square metres (65,905.17 square feet).
Although called jigsaws, a jigsaw is not the usual tool for making these puzzles. In the early days a marquetry saw was used, and these days, with modern jigsaw puzzles usually being made out of paperboard, after the artwork is glued onto the cardboard it’s then fed into a press.
If you’re one of those people who love jigsaws, then consider yourself to be a Dissectologist. There’s even a worldwide club, based in the UK – the BCD, or Benevolent Confraternity of Dissectololgists. This club was founded in 1985 after a small group of jigsaw enthusiasts met up for an evening of assembling puzzles. They decided to set up a club for like-minded fans, calling themselves Dissectologists in recognition of John Spilsbury’s original puzzles in the 1760s of Dissected Maps. If you love jigsaws, check out their fascinating website: www.thebcd.co.uk