A Brief History of Tangrams
Tangrams originated in China and first
appeared in Britain in the 19th Century.
Little is known for certain about the inventor or the origin of the Tangram.
Even the origin of the name is obscure.
According to Samuel Loyd, the American puzzle expert, the God Tan invented the
puzzle 4,000 years ago and described it in the Seven Books of Tan. Each volume
contained over 1,000 puzzles which were supposed to illustrate the creation of
the world and the origin of species. The seven pieces were taken from the sun,
the moon and the five planets of Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury and Venus. His
story was later uncovered as a an elaborate and scholarly spoof.
According to some, the name Tangram is a corruption of the obsolete English word
trangam, which meant a puzzle or trinket. Others suggest that the word was
derived from the Tang Dynasty of China. One story tells that Tangram was
invented accidentally by a man named Tan while he tried to put broken
pieces of a porcelain tile together. In Asia, it is called 'Seven Plates of
Tangram-like puzzles first appeared in a book published in Japan in
1742. Scholars assume that Tangram began in the East before
the 18th century and then spread westward. By 1818, Tangram publications had
appeared in Germany, Italy, France and England. It swept through Europe
and America at the beginning of 19th century and its popularity continues to
this day. In 19th century China, it was so popular that the shape of the pieces
found their way into the design of dishes, lacquer boxes and even tables.
Toward the end of 19th century, a German industrialist began to produce stone
versions of Tangram and other dissection puzzles under the name of 'The Anchor
Puzzle'. The Anchor puzzles were so successful that over 30 new designs of
puzzle sets were followed. During the World War I, it was popular among the
troops in the trenches of both sides. Thomas Edison and U. S. President Grover
Cleveland publicly endorsed the puzzles in puzzle booklets. Lewis Carroll
and Edgar Allan Poe are known to have played the game