Piecing together a puzzle

jigsaw-puzzle history benefits

Popular a past time, interesting a mode of engagement and stimulating also of the mental faculties to a decent extent, the worldwide fascination for the jigsaw puzzle is something that is discernible indeed in the reputation of it. And why should it not be? Capable of endowing knowledge through such means that are fun and intriguing as well and that which spells out therefore a host of benefits when it comes to the pursuit of them as activities of productive leisure, putting together the pieces of a puzzle has its own notions of associated charm. The process itself is very enriching an experience in relative simplicity and the thrill and also the anticipation of seeing the final picture span out as something that had till then been a certain ‘mystery’ of sorts is somewhat a reward in itself. Gratifying therefore in outcome and enjoyable in its engaging content along the range of the immersive experience it provides, it therefore is no surprise that this enormous utility of multi faceted dimensions shapes up also the logo of none other than the online encyclopedia of Wikipedia from which reference also all these current ‘pieces’ of knowledge are revealing their whole nature to us.

So from where did this play of the pictures emerge in its beginning? The whereabouts of its exact origin might not be very accurate in pinpointing but it is certain that these pieces of puzzle came to exist since sometime in the 18th century. And despite them having been commercialised already very much in those particular 100 years itself, when London cartographer and engraver John Spilsbury supposedly produced the first ever jigsaw puzzle in 1760, the rather standout name of the game came to stuck much later, in fact more than a century hence. And even then, the tool that a jigsaw essentially is would never cater to any specific demands that the manufacture of this type of tiling game would possibly yield. And yet the identity of jigsaw puzzle came to manifest in the late 19th century, sometime around 1880 but most probably as a misnomer since it were fretsaws that had been used instead to cut the shapes that would make up the components of the puzzle.

Before this naming took precedence, these picture puzzles used to be known as dissected maps, revealing therefore the true nature of what they stemmed as in their essence and origin. The terrains of geography obviously in contention to lay claim upon this very novel invention by Spilsbury, these dissected maps were devised by the ingenious cartographer as an engaging way of teaching about areas and regions and territories to children and students, manifesting in the outset as a map of Europe glued to a wooden board and cut along the borders with a marquetry saw to bring out the shape and location of each of the countries that marked the continent as the ones intended to cater to by this rather imaginative piece of discovery set about reassembling them in all parts to accustom themselves with the eventual whole.

The dissected maps indeed took off instantly as a competent enough tool for education, urging thereby Spilsbury to build a whole business around his very remarkable invention. What ensued thereof were a whole family of similar such puzzles invariably eked out by geography, with eight distinct regions of the World, Europe, Asia, Africa, America, England and Wales, Ireland, and Scotland finding their own piece of assertion along this historic enough route of human exploration. Needless to say, these succeeding areas of geography also managed to gain equal popularity, these time among the wider masses, spurring therefore also other manufactures and producers to turn to this new module of business, marking the dawn of the era of jigsaw puzzles that continues to still excite and educate all and sundry of the world.

Over time, newer developments and evolution found their way along the edges of the jigsaw pieces, beginning with the late years of the 19th century, sometimes around the 1880s again when plywood came to be preferred over hardwood as the medium from which they would be crafted. Even carboard puzzles came to make appearance in the market but was still a material meant for constructing the puzzle pieces specially meant for the children, finding not much favor with the manufacturers who perceived them as low quality. Essentially then, with better quality and therefore higher priced jigsaw puzzles finding preference in flooding the markets, it were mainly the rich and the elite who could chart out their course of action along these pieces of puzzling diversity. It hadn’t been until the remarkable turn the century brought by ushering in the 1900s that jigsaw puzzles became more affordable and consequently more popular as well, helped though by a couple of other causes and occurences.

The era of the Great Depression that set in during the years of the 1930s had been epochal in many respects and also in making jigsaw puzzles the immensely popular but humble phenomenon that they continue to be today. With the unprecedented turn that the world economy had to take, the money deprived and ‘timeful’ masses of the time found in jigsaw puzzles an opportunity to engage themselves, diverting their minds from the complicated mannerisms of the economic state of affairs and concentrating instead on the puzzling but satisfying still pieces of the game that had by then come to incorporate also themes that went far beyond what the explorations of geography allowed them to. Leisurely in pursuit but still constructive in that, this cheap mode of entertainment that jigsaw puzzles, specifically the carboard versions of them had evolved to be made them bestsellers of the troubling times in history, helped also by the fact that many out of job folks of those years also took to making them as rather cheap but functional still alternatives. And while jigsaw puzzles have managed to remain more or less relevant mediums of therapeutic indulgence since then, it also has been another recent recurrence of the troubled times that has seen them resurging further to comparable popularity. Albeit of a different range, the global coronavirus crisis too has induced a similar spate of restless, idle existences, the intensity of which has been considerably served in satiation by bringing out those modest boards of puzzle to try and make sense of the appalling vulnerabilities of the world.

In therefore such metaphorical relevance of them, jigsaw puzzles are indeed more than mere tools of recreation. Mere, they never have been quite though, with their very origins steeped in such purposes as profound as education even when their commonplace popularity too dwells along the realms of being mentally engaging modes of alert awareness, but even more significant are these picture puzzles in what they bring about to human interest, perhaps even without the intention. An artistic succour and a psychological catharsis all at once is this creative craft of mass prominence that entails a wide many benefits for human health. A medium of play that actively engages the human brain in its entirety, the pursuit of piecing together the parts of a jigsaw puzzle exerts the left part in the analytical process of coming up with the perfect match that will sit in conformity amongst its complementary- most counterpart. The right side of the brain on the other hand finds indulgence due to its creative basis, with the final outcome revealing indeed as an art of sorts emerging from the making of it. Hence associated with such benefits that bode well for the mental and intellectual faculties of our logical species are jigsaw puzzles and the solving of them that can offset also significantly the development of memory related illnesses or at least treat the occurrence of them.

Also helping the advancement of memory is this centuries old piece of the puzzle that entails always a reward in the form of the final presentation, triggering therefore the production of the dopamine chemical in the brain. Stimulating memory, enhancing learning abilities and maintaining a healthy brain are some stemmings of this particular mode of recreational indulgence. Solving jigsaw puzzles regularly also helps improve visual- spatial reasoning, or what can be more simply understood as hand to eye coordination which is quite a wonder given how essential a life skill this particular effort can be.

Equally prominent is the impact that something as simple as the jigsaw puzzle can have upon the overall quality of life of humans in its essence as being a favorite leisure activity. By seeking recourse to something we enjoy doing and that which is not in any way merely mindless an indulgence striving to thwart off boredom, piecing together a jigsaw puzzle is a very wonderful way to destress and unwind, helping to distract the mind even if momentarily from the worries of the world and letting it relax, even while making active use of it. In such dual indulgence of the senses, jigsaw puzzles end up being a very effective mode of therapy that can help tremendously with our mental well being.

But the benefits of jigsaw puzzles rest also in a different dimension of them, as their convenience as a somewhat ‘traditional’ way of fun renders them capable of. As a non technological means of seeking relaxation in, such puzzle games lets us ease up on life without the glaring backlight and the harmful radiations lurking in the shadow of the pieces to ruin the experience for us in the long run. A great excuse to gain yourself some alone time or as great a reason to get together with friends and family can be the pursuit of piecing together these puzzles that are versatile enough to allow indulgence exclusively by oneself or in harmony with others. What’s more, the intriguing show that a finished piece of puzzle turns out to be, courtesy the myriad ‘detailing’ that in fact are the very visible edges of their components makes them also standout items of home decor that can alleviate your space and your mood just about anytime. Not to mention the sense of accomplishment that washes over you every time you take a look at this piece of art and your mastery of it and jigsaw puzzles can be the code of clarity you have been looking for all your life!