This year in our HPB calendar, we’re celebrating all things printed and recorded—and played, solved, watched, etc. In other words, all the cool stuff we buy and sell in our stores.
For March, we’ve exercised our brain to bring you some fascinating info about puzzles.
1760s Londoner John Spilsbury creates early wooden jigsaw puzzles.
c.1900 A jigsaw puzzle craze sweeps the US.
1920s Jigsaw puzzles become an inexpensive Depression-era pastime.
1932 Jig of the Week, a weekly 25¢ puzzle, is a hit on newsstands.
2011 The world’s largest jigsaw puzzle, with 551,232 pieces, is assembled in Vietnam.
DID YOU KNOW?
- A 1514 engraving by Albrecht Dürer featured a “magic square,” a distant ancestor to sudoku and other number-based puzzles.
- Jigsaw puzzles emerged in the 18th century when maps were mounted on wood and cut into pieces along national borders. Known as dissected maps, they were used to teach geography to children.
- In the early 20th century, the high cost of wooden jigsaw puzzles put them out of reach of average consumers, but they became a staple of the high-society party scene.
- The first known published crossword puzzle appeared December 21, 1913, in the New York World. By the 1920s they were carried in most US newspapers.
The Jigsaw Puzzle: Piecing Together a History, Anne D. William
The History and Craft of Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles: From Historical Source Instructions to Modern Tools and Techniques, Carrie Franzwa
Crossworld: One Man’s Journey Into America’s Crossword Obsession, Marc Romano
A Clue for The Puzzle Lady, Parnell Hall
The New York Times Sunday Crossword Puzzles: 50 Sunday Puzzles from the Pages of The New York Times, Will Shortz, ed.
Sudoku Mania, Book 1
Most mysteries still feature private eyes and cops, but people from all sorts of professions are getting into the sleuthing act: priests, hockey players, hair stylists—and quite a few from the world of books. Writers, of course, are readers, and they love hanging out in bookstores and libraries and thinking, “What a wonderful setting for an unsolvable murder!”
Below I have gathered a few mystery books I’ve enjoyed that are also book mysteries. Check them out and let us know of any of your favorite book-mystery mystery books we didn’t include.
Booked to Die
John Dunning, 1992
Booked to Die was the first of five books in Dunning’s series featuring detective Cliff Janeway, who also just happens to be a book collector and bookstore owner. The series is set in Dunning’s hometown of Denver, where he has worked as a newspaper reporter and owned the Old Algonquin Bookstore, which specialized in second-hand and rare books. There’s a lot of collectible-book knowledge and lore in this series—enough that we have often recommended Booked to Die to HPB’s pricers.
You may already recognize this friendly face! In this edition of Meet the Bibliomaniac, get to know Steve Leach, the HPB Buy Guy. He’s got some great stories to share from his 32 years in the book biz. Take it away, Steve!
Name: Steve Leach | Job Title: Buy Guy | Store Location: Corporate Offices, Dallas
When did you join the team?
I was hired as a bookseller back in 1985, when the Flagship was located on Mockingbird Lane in Dallas, Texas.
As Buy Guy, what’s an average day like for you?
I’m lucky enough to be able to say there aren’t many “average days.” Most days include answering customers’ and employees’ questions about buying. Some days, I’m helping store people identify, evaluate and promote their collectibles; other days I’m helping train employees, and I occasionally get to talk to customers about books, collectibles and the treasure hunt that is HPB.
How did you become the HPB Buy Guy?
When I started at the Flagship store, I was given the LP section because I had a music background. Boots, now the CEO, was at that time the assistant manager of the store, and her specialty was handling collectibles. I expressed interest and was allowed into that magical world.
What got you interested in collectibles and rare books?
I was a lifelong avid reader with no experience in pricing collectibles; however, I became quickly immersed in it, because, then as now, the Flagship store was full of wonderful, weird and rare stuff to process.