The Tangram Puzzle was invented in China in the late 18th or early 19th Century.
In 1817 it started to sweep the world as the first "Puzzle Craze".

According to research by Jerry Slocum and others in "The Tangram Book", the set illustrated here is the earliest non-Chinese Tangram Puzzle. Published by J.Leuchars of London, it was registered on 3rd February 1817 and first advertised on 19th March 1817.

At the time of preparing this page, this set from The Puzzle Museum's collection is also the only known example of a complete set by Leuchars.

The mahogany box measures 124 x 82 x 30 mm (5 x 3 x 1.25 inches) and contains 16 hand coloured problem cards, a key sheet, and a set of ebony tangrams. The label has the price 6s.6d. for the coloured set (Equivalent of about £25 ($40.00) in today's money).


The Puzzle Museum has many very early Tangram sets and related publications. The craze for Tangrams spread amazingly quickly through Europe and the USA. The puzzles are often harder to date with certainty; however our library includes the following books from England, Italy, France and Switzerland, all of which were published within one year of the start of the craze in 1817.

Audot Recueil des plus jolis jeux de société
Bettali. Publ. Nuovo e dilettevole Giuoco Chinese
Briquet Passe-Temps mathématique ou recréation a l'Ile Sainte-Hélène.
Buckland. Publ. A New Chinese Puzzle Consisting of Seven Pieces of Ivory or Wood...
Davenporte. Publ. The Grand Eastern Puzzle
Franzeti. Publ. Giuoco Chinese ossia Raccolta di 364 Figure
Gides pub. Le Casse-Tete Chinois
Giraud, Giovanni Al gioco cinese chiamato il rompicapo. Appendice
GIRAUD, GIOVANNI Opere edite ed inedite.
Lowry, Miss D. A Key to the only correct Chinese Puzzle which has yet been published ..
Paine & Simpson. Publ. A New Invented CHINESE PUZZLE consisting of seven pieces of ...
Wallis. Publ The Fashionable Chinese Puzzle

This illustration of well dressed "Chinese" puzzlers is of interest for several reasons. It comes from one of the earliest Italian books of Tangram problems “Nuovo Giuoco Chinese” published by Franzetti.

The fashionable Metagrobologists are seen cutting their own Tangrams from paper which would imply that the book was never intended to be sold with a boxed set of pieces. The book is also interesting because it includes Arabic numerals and letters of the alphabet which do not commonly appear in many later publications.



Other Tangram references on this website