Two 18th Century English Puzzles

Royal Chronological Tables of English History

Wallis Table Puzzle Wallis Puzzle Pieces

The photograph to the left is of a reproduction of Wallis' 1799 jigsaw puzzle box. The photo on the right are reproductions of some of the puzzle pieces. Original 1788 editions are in the Devoy Museum and the Tolson Memorial Museum, and other British Museums. Some originals are in private collections. The original pieces and the box were made of wood. Most of the 1788 edition is uncolored, while the 1799 edition was hand colored.Our cardboard reproduction of the 1799 edition was purchased from Colonial Williamsburg in the state of Virginia. The reproduction box is 16.2cm wide x 10.4cm long. The oval on the box top features the royal English crest, the name of the puzzle, and a brief description of the puzzle. Each piece is approximately 9cm long x 6cm wide. The pieces are somewhat regular, but do not interlock as can be seen from the three examples and the complete set pictured below.

Royal Chronological Tables

Inside the box are 24 scalloped edged pieces, 4 straight edged border pieces, and 4 L-shaped corner pieces. On each piece is a drawing of an English monarch, name, nickname, birth and death dates, coronation year, reign, remarkable events, and the like. To put the puzzle together it helps if one has a knowledge of British history. When the puzzle is assembled it is 40.6cm long x 58.7cm wide.

An Alphabet Puzzle

Comical Hotch-Potch

This illustration is also a Williamsburg copy originally made by Carrinton Bowles in 1782. The boxtop indicates that the puzzle is called The Comical Hotch-Potch, Or The Alphabet Turn'd Posture-Master. The boxtop also explains that this alphabet has only 24 letters. Although the "J" and "U" were known and used, many people [in the 18th century] continued to use "I" and "V" in their place. The letters of the alphabet in this comic illustration are formed by fugures in different postures. In addition to the Wallis puzzle pictured above and this alphabet puzzle, other surviving examples from this period include puzzles made from biblical scenes and scenes of town and country life.

An informative general reference for early British jigsaw puzzles and their developers is:
Linda Hannas, The English Jigsaw Puzzle 1760-1890, London: Wayland Publishers, 1972, ISBN 85340-189-6.

About Williamsburg, Virginia

The area was settled in 1633 by the British, and in 1699 was named Williamsburg in honor of William III of England. It served as a political, social, and cultural center. Starting in 1926, its historic core area began to be restored as a "living museum". Restoration and care of the more than 120 18th century buildings in the core is vested in the Colonial Williamsburg Corporation. The Corporation has commissioned reproductions of many antique furnishings found in colonial homes. Some of these reproductions are for sale to the public. Wallis' jigsaw puzzle was one of the furnishings found in a colonial home and reproduced for sale to the public.

Last update April 2, 2010