Art Fund helps another piece of the Kew Palace jigsaw fit into place

  • 22 March 2007

A unique cabinet of jigsaw maps that once belonged to King George III's children has been presented to Historic Royal Palaces and the V&A Museum of Childhood by The Art Fund.

The Art Fund purchased the cabinet, which contains some of the earliest jigsaws in existence, when it was export stopped in November 2006. It cost £120,000.

The simple mahogany cabinet, dating from the mid-1700s, was made to hold a collection of dissected maps, the earliest precursors of the jigsaw puzzle. The cabinet and the sixteen maps belonged to the children of King George III and Queen Charlotte who were educated at Kew Palace for some of their childhood. It is likely that the future George IV and William IV used these maps when young princes.

The cabinet and its contents were later passed to their governess Lady Charlotte Finch.  A note pinned inside the cabinet records its royal provenance and claims that Lady Charlotte Finch was "the inventor of dissecting maps ... always used in teaching Geography to George the fourth, his Brothers and sisters".

The British Library has acclaimed the maps as exceptionally early examples of jigsaw maps, which were first produced for sale by the engraver John Spilsbury in the 1760s. Some of Spilsbury’s dissected maps are included in this collection, as well as others hand-drawn by Lady Charlotte or the royal children. 

The cabinet and selected maps will first be displayed at Kew Palace, King George’s countryside retreat, when it reopens to the public on 24 March 2007.


Related Links:

Historic Royal Palaces

V&A Museum of Childhood