This rare example of a late eighteenth-century jigsaw gives us some indication of the range of items that were manufactured and sold alongside satirical prints.
The paper labels on the front and side of the box indicate that the jigsaw was engraved and printed by John Wallis’s “Map Warehouse” at 16 Ludgate Street in March 1788 and sold by E. Newbury of St. Paul’s Church-yard. The latter is presumably Elizabeth Newbery, daughter-in-law of the noted children’s publisher John Newbery, who assumed responsibility for the family business following her husband’s death.
The puzzle is made from a single large printed sheet of laid paper which has been laid down on a thin wooden board and then cut into pieces. Each piece contains the portrait of an English monarch, with the chronology running from William I to George II (George III, who was king at the time, does appear to have been included). The images are accompanied by small groups of text explaining the notable people and events associated with each respective monarch’s reign.
The box-lid is decorated with a printed label bearing the lion and the unicorn of the royal crest and a title which reads: Wallis’s Royal Chronological Table of English History on a Plan similar to that of the Dissected Maps, Published March 31st 1788 by John Wallis , No.16 Ludgate Street, London [1.] Newbery’s name appears on a smaller label on the side of the lid and a third label, listing England’s kings and queens in order, has been pasted into the interior wall of the box.
As the covering labeling suggests, Wallis was not averse to reusing old prints and old plates. He was evidently known for producing “dissected maps”, which was presumably a canny of way of re-purposing unsold maps as children’s toys. Another good example of his penchant for recycling is the satirical broadside The Grand Republic Balloon, which was printed in 1798 but heavily based on a design he had engraved some 14 years earlier. The royal portraits he produced for this jigsaw were also copied onto wood and used to decorate a set of playing cards that can be found in the British Museum collection.
- The publication line on the jigsaw itself states that the image was published on 25th March, suggesting that it took several days to complete the manufacturing process.