Description

This map of Asia is one of the maps of the continents issued as jigsaws by John Spilsbury in 1766 and 1767. The map is simplified, with only the most important names included. Often maps that were intended to be made into jigsaw puzzles were printed from purpose-prepared maps, which lacked the detail of contemporary atlas maps, but had more sharply defined, if less precise, boundaries to help the dissector in the onerous task of cutting out the individual pieces.

As with the companion map of the Americas, the individual pieces here are relatively large: the map is composed of 21 pieces, most of generous size, such as Independent Tartary and Chinese Tartary, with the sea-pieces included as an optional extra.

The dissecting process was carried out by hand. The cutter has not attempted to follow the contours of the shore exactly, but has cut a simplified line along the coast. Internal boundaries have been followed more exactly but still are relatively simplified.

It is worth noting that, unlike modern jigsaws, the pieces do not have interlocking plugs (sometimes called tabs or tongues); instead, the pieces butt up against each other rather than joining. It was only with mechanisation of the cutting that smaller, more complicated or intricate shapes could be created. The name ‘jigsaw’ was itself unknown before the middle of the 19th century (although puzzles of this date appear to have been made with a fret-saw rather than the slightly later and slightly different jigsaw, and the name may be altogether a misnomer). Nevertheless, considering that this jigsaw (and its companions) are among the earliest surviving examples of the genre, the workmanship is something to be admired.

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