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Neatly Dissected

Neatly Dissected for the Instruction of Young Ladies and Gentlemen in the Knowledge of Geography: John Spilsbury and Early Dissected Puzzles by Jill Shefrin. (19 x 23 cm.). Photographs and illustrations. Paperback, 40 pp., Los Angeles: The Cotsen Occasional Press, 1999.

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John Spilsbury, who styled himself an “Engraver and Map Dissector in Wood, in Order to Facilitate the Teaching of Geography,” is credited with the invention of “dissected maps”, hand-colored maps, printed from copper plates, which were mounted on thin sheets of mahogany and cut into pieces according to the political borders of the region mapped. The discovery of an extraordinary set of five of John Spilsbury’s dissected puzzles, and its acquisition by the Cotsen Children’s Library Los Angeles has provided a valuable opportunity to reassess Spilsbury’s intention and the place of dissected puzzles and other geographical pastimes in the history of education in eighteenth-century Britain. This study of the context in which these puzzles first appeared reveals the extent of the links between the children’s book and map trades in 18th-century London, and sheds new light on the history of progressive British education during that time.

“[A] well-documented discussion of (for many readers) an unfamiliar form of publication.” ­ T. H. Howard-Hill, University of South Carolina, Editor, The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America.

About the author:
Jill Shefrin is a scholar in the field of early children's books and games and the history of education. Her research focuses on the role of 18th- and 19th-century games and pastimes in the history of education and childhood. She is currently preparing a descriptive bibliography and historical study and contextualization of the games and other educational aids published by the London firm of Darton between 1787-1876. She has lectured and published on games and other aspects of early children's literature and the education of children, and was for many years a librarian with the Osborne Collection of Early Children's Books, Toronto Public Library. She is currently a Research Associate of Trinity College, University of Toronto.