Going Back to America’s Roots – The Dissected Puzzle

 Something a little different this week, folks. I’m combining both my Tuesday and Friday post this week to bring you a nifty treasure, as well as to buy myself a bit of breathing room. I’d forgotten that inventory can be both physically and mentally exhausting! We’re halfway through, and the Boss and family have squired me away to Camp for a second weekend. It’s a holiday, y’know?

Every once in a while, you find an odd but cool thing at the thrift store. For me, it was this odd reproduction of one of the very first types of puzzle.


 They’re called dissections, and were typically made by pasting a map to thin wooden board and using a very fine saw to cut along geographical borders. The first ever puzzle of this type is credited to John Spilsbury, an Englishman in 1767, although there are recorded Dutch puzzles up to ten years prior.

cw puzzle close up
Excerpt from the back.

 This particular dissection is based on a 1710 map by Peter Schenk the Elder; and was created and sold by the Colonial Williamsburg Historic Area Stores.

The original map only has 3 surviving copies, one at Colonial Williamsburg, and the others are parts of private collections.


 The pieces are huge in comparison to modern puzzles, on a heavy stiff chipboard. It makes sense, considering that the original use for these is to teach children. The borders lock together, while the interior pieces just “float” until assembled correctly.



 Honestly, this map was a piece of art! The top and bottom borders are highly detailed and beautifully colored.


Included in the map is an inset of the North Pole, detailing the presumptive NorthWest Passage.


This is were the really nifty part comes in… this puzzle isn’t available anywhere! Nowhere, and I mean nowhere on the internet has images of this puzzle.

It was made sometime between the late 1970s and the early 1990s. There is no company mark or copyright dates on the box. I used to work for Colonial Williamsburg a few years ago, and these puzzles where not anywhere to be seen except for a display in the Governor’s Palace.


 I love this odd little slice of history, and while everyone else is focusing on the red, white and blue, I wanted to take a look before. Because before we were America, we were a colony; before there were jigsaw puzzles, there were dissections.

Happy Independence Day!


  • Company: Colonial Williamsburg Historic Area Stores
  • Title: Dissected Puzzle
  • Artist: Peter Schenk
  • Year released: Unknown
  • Pieces:36
  • Cut-Style: Grid
  • Finished size: 18½ x 21½ in
  • Bonus poster: No


  • Box: Lightweight, 9 x 7½ x 2 inches
  • Board: Very thick chipboard
  • Cut: Cut with a steelcut die
  • Image Quality: Excellent, muted tones
  • Finish: Matte
  • Puzzle Dust: None
  • Piece shapes: Large size for easy handling
  • Piece Fit: Excellent, small clusters of pieces could be moved without falling apart

Disability Notes: I found this puzzle to be easy on my hands, but due to the muted colors,not so easy on the eyes.

Where to buy: Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find this puzzle anywhere online. It was made specifically for Colonial Williamsburg Historic Area Stores.

About the Artist: Peter Schenk the Elder (1660-1711) moved to Amsterdam in 1675 and began to learn the art of mezzotint. In 1694 he bought some of the copperplate stock of the mapmaker Johannes Janssonius, which allowed him to specialize in the engraving and printing of maps and prints. He split his time between his Amsterdam shop and Leipzig and also sold a considerable volume of materials to London. Wiki


Colonial Williamsburg: Website / FaceBook

Disclosure: I bought this puzzle for the purpose of doing a review. The opinions are my own. All links are direct, I do not make money from them.

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