History of mechanical puzzles

The oldest known mechanical puzzle comes from Greece and appeared in the 3rd century BC. The game consists of a square divided into 14 parts, and the aim was to create different shapes from these pieces. In Iran “puzzle-locks” were made as early as the 17th century AD. In 1742 Japan there is a mention of a game called “Sei Shona-gon Chie No-Ita” in a book. Around the year 1800 the Tangram puzzle from China became popular, and 20 years later it had spread through Europe and America. The company Richter from Rudolstadt began producing large amounts of Tangram-like puzzles of different shapes, the so-called “Anker-puzzles”.

Puzzles were greatly fashionable towards the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. The first patents for puzzles were recorded at this time. In 1893 professor Hoffman wrote a book called “Puzzles Old and New”. It contained, amongst other things, more than 40 descriptions of puzzles with secret opening mechanisms. This book grew into a reference work for puzzle games and modern copies exist for those interested.

With the invention of materials easy to shape such as plastic, the range of puzzle possibilities grew. Rubik’s Cube, arguably the most famous puzzle worldwide, would not be possible without modern polymers.

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