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“Just One More Piece”: The Magic World of Puzzles

David Turshyan, Librarian, International Languages Department,

The Lacemaker by Tropinin

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is a millenium-size jigsaw puzzle worth? Featuring paintings and photographs from around the world, these puzzles not only grace our collections with visual imagery, but also challenge the puzzle enthusiast with one thousand elegant problems, or perhaps just one less, because the last piece may render its solution itself, if all the other pieces are solved correctly.

The jigsaw puzzle was born as an instructional game to help children study geography. And what might have been the subject of the first puzzle? The map of the world! One beautiful day in the eighteenth century England, the cartographer John Spilsbury attached a map to a piece of wood and cut around the borders of the countries, using a fine bladed saw. The result was a new educational game - the magic world of jigsaw puzzles. Later, as the years went by, the wood was replaced by the paperboard and as the puzzles developed complexity, they started appealing to adults, as well.

Today, puzzles come in variety of formats, sizes, and skill levels, such as three-dimensional, double-sided, and computerized versions, as well as Family puzzles, that are composed of different size pieces, from large to small, allowing the family of diverse size hands and skill levels to work on the puzzle together. The library visitors at the International Languages department approach the puzzles, many of which have been donated by the Central Library team, for various reasons, such as to take a short break from reading, spend a little fun time while waiting for a computer, or simply as a friendly challenge in search of an elegant solution.

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Some puzzles present double challenge – the game to solve and the subject it depicts to puzzle out. Who is that mysterious lady in an open carriage? Here puzzle enthusiast Luis Tlahuiz is puzzling over the Unknown Lady by Kramskoy.

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Taj Mahal; Agra, India

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Fira Village; Island of Santorini, Greece

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Eiffel Tower; Paris, France

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San Giorgio Church and gondolas; Venice, Italy

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Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany

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Nan Lian Garden; Hong-Kong, China

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St. Basil Cathedral; Moscow, Russia

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Double-Decker; London, England

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Times Square, New York City

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Curaçao Harbor

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Colorful Indian Shades

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Riomaggiore; Liguria, Italy

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Home, Sweet Home

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Foxes

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Poolside Pets

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Buds in Bloom

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Sweetwater Cottage

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Beyond the Autumn Gate

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A Perfect Summer Day

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Conquering the Storms

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A Peaceful Time

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Neuschwanstein Castle; Bavaria, Germany

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Grand Canal; Venice, Italy

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Puzzles come in different sizes and formats. Here is a postcard-puzzle of only twenty-four pieces - a bouquet of flowers - the smallest puzzle of the International Languages puzzle gallery.


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