PAPER TOWNS (reposted)

Among the books I read recently was an enjoyable novel called Paper Towns by an American writer named John Green. It was lying around the house; one of the kids was reading it for school work. The title refers to the practice of including fictitious entries on maps in order to unmask copyright infringements: if such an unobtrusive (but entirely fictional) town, village or side-street appeared on a map it acted as a marker that the map had been plagiarised. The ‘paper town’ in the novel referred to Agloe, New York which was inserted into a 1930s Esso map of upstate New York as a copyright trap. However, over the years, the empty crossroads marked on the map as Agloe became a minor tourist destination, such that someone built the ‘Agloe General Store’ there to attract the passing trade. Many years later a rival mapmaker included Agloe on their map and Esso accused them of falling into their copyright trap, but since the addition of the shop Agloe had become a real place so the action failed. … Another fascinating book I read was The Phantom Atlas – The Greatest Myths, Lies and Blunders on Maps by Edward Brooke-Hitching, a beautifully illustrated volume which presents many misconceptions, fantasies and downright lies which have been drawn on maps throughout history: Atlantis, the Mountains of the Moon, St Brendan’s Island and many more. In the age before satellites and GPS, much of the world was a blank page to be filled in by intrepid explorers. Sometimes they got it badly wrong, sometimes they exaggerated for personal gain and sometimes the mapmakers were just having a bit of fun with those who stayed at home. Amazingly some of these myths survived into the modern era:,_New_Caledonia A wonderful book for anyone interested in maps and history.

Incidentally the 1599 Map of Ireland by Baptista Boazio includes two entirely fictional offshore islands, Baptiste’s Rock (between Rathlin Island and the Antrim coast) and Elstrake’s Isle (named after his engraver, off the north coast of Donegal). No-one knows why he included them in what was considered at the time to be the definitive map of Ireland. Was he merely being mischievous or was this an early instance of a ‘paper town’ designed to entrap mapmakers who drew maps of Ireland without ever leaving the comfort of their London offices – we will never know!

Nova totius Terrarum Orbis geographica ac hydrographica tabula

Posted on 31st Oct 2015

Nova totius Terrarum Orbis geographica ac hydrographica tabula

is a map of the world created by Hendrik Hondius in 1630, and published in Amsterdam the following year in the atlas Atlantis Maioris Appendix. It is widely regarded as being one of the finest world maps of its era. Apart from the stunning artistic quality of the map, one of its claims to fame is that it was the first widely available map to show any part of the newly-discovered land of Australia - the only previous map to do so being Hessel Gerritsz' very sketchy 1627 Caert van't Landt van d'Eendracht or "Chart of the Land of Eendracht”. [Eendrachtsland was one of the early names for Australia, in use from 1616 till 1644. It was named after the ship of the Dutch explorer Dirk Hartog.]

The world is depicted in two hemispheres, which are bordered by the representation of the four elements of fire, earth, air and water along with portraits of Julius Caesar, the 2nd Century AD geographer Claudius Ptolemy, the 16th Century cartographer Gerardus Mercator and Hondius himself.

NOTE ON THE CARTOGRAPHER: Henricus Hondius II or Hendrik Hondius the Younger (1597 – 1651) was a Dutch engraver, cartographer and publisher. Born in Amsterdam, he was the son of the famous cartographer Jodocus Hondius who had started a map-making business in the city. After his father died in 1612 Henricus continued the business with his brother-in-law and ran his own company from 1621 onwards. He is known as Hendrik Hondius the Younger because there was another famous engraver and cartographer Hendrik Hondius the Elder; the two men were unrelated.

Click here for the 1000 piece version of the Hondius map.

Or for a really tough challenge, try the 2000 piece puzzle!

Story Map of Ireland - 500 piece puzzle

Posted on 9th Oct 2015



This delightfully detailed pictorial map of Ireland was part of a series of “Story Maps” produced by Colortext Publications of Chicago in the 1930s and 1940s. The series included Story Maps of England, Scotland, France and several other European countries, with the aim of connecting Americans with their cultural heritage of their ancestors.

The Story Map of Ireland dates from 1936 and features wonderful illustrations of historic and cultural events in Ireland’s past: battles, famous people and places, discoveries, and numerous aspects of Irish life over the centuries. It includes basic geographic details such as lakes and bays, counties and towns, as well as intricate borders and title decorations adapted from the 9th Century Book of Kells and the 14th Century MacDurnan Gospels.

This puzzle is made in the USA by Pomegranate, a very well-regarded art publisher from Portland, Oregon. As you would expect the colour reproduction is excellent, and the puzzle is manufactured to a very high quality, with strong interlocking pieces made of thick cardboard. The wonderfully intricate artwork and the fascinating subject matter make this puzzle a genuine delight for both adults and children.

Dimensions: 430mm x 340mm (17.0in x 13.5in)
Pieces: 500
Suitable for age 10 – adult
€14.50 plus P&P: Ireland €6, GB/Europe €8

See product page here

Also from Pomegranate: Ireland 1599AD by Baptista Boazio

John Spilsbury and the first jigsaw puzzles

Posted on 23rd Sep 2015

The world’s first commercial jigsaw puzzle was a map puzzle made in the early 1760s by a young London mapmaker named John Spilsbury (1739-1769). He mounted a map of the world onto a hardwood board and carved out the shapes of the countries to create what he called a ‘dissection’. This innovation proved highly popular and he went on to create dissected maps of England and Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Europe, Asia, Africa and North America in what turned out to be a successful business venture. Unfortunately John Spilsbury died in 1769 but his widow Sarah continued with the business, later marrying Spilsbury’s former apprentice Harry Ashby.

Dissected maps were considered to be educational tools rather than toys or pastimes until the 1820s, when subject matter other than maps had become popular. However it was not until the 1880s - over 100 years after they were invented - that these ‘dissections’ began to be known as ‘jigsaw puzzles’.

At this stage puzzles were made exclusively of wood. As a result they were very expensive, and were aimed primarily at wealthy adults rather than children. It would not be unusual to find puzzles as a pastime at upper-class parties and on weekend country retreats.

But wooden puzzles were out of reach for most ordinary working people, so at the end of the 19th century some manufacturers started producing cheaper puzzles for children made from cardboard. Jigsaws became even more accessible as the die-cut method of mass production developed in the early 20th century. As a result these cardboard puzzles became hugely popular during the Great Depression in the 1930s when a cheap puzzle provided hours of family entertainment.

Nowadays jigsaw puzzles continue to offer great value for money. For a relatively small outlay they give many hours of enjoyment and challenge whether working alone or with companions, and when you are finished with a puzzle, you can simply pass it along to family or friends so they can enjoy it as new!

Map puzzles offer all the above, plus the added benefit of learning about the world. By purchasing a map jigsaw puzzle you are also – in a very real way - making a connection back to the very first dissected maps made by John Spilsbury over 250 years ago.


See all our Jigsaw Maps here

From 1853

Posted on 23rd Feb 2015



manufactured in 1853 by MERRIAM, MOORE & CO of TROY, NY

The object of these games is to furnish an agreeable and attractive method of imparting to young people a familiarity with the geography of their own country, and of blending amusement with instruction. No parent can place a more appropriate gift in the hands of their children.


You cannot teach geography in any way so effectually as by setting the pupil to construct the map from the dissected parts - Independent

Exceedingly valuable in imparting novelty and interest to a useful study - Tribune

An agreeable contrivance for blending amusement with instruction – Troy Times

In putting these maps together, which children delight to do, they will learn geography without a master, and keep quiet as mice – Home Journal

Every family should possess this series of maps that the younger members may profitably while away their leisure hours. Nothing can be more useful – Rochester Union

An ingenious device for teaching geography - Evangelist

Physic [medication] and geography were equally distasteful in our youthful days, but sugar coated pills have induced children to cry for the first, and we venture to assert that the ingenious originators of this idea have rendered the second as attractive – Yankee Blade

See our wide range of jigsaw maps

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