Mechanical Puzzles

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Mechanical Puzzles

A mechanical puzzle is a puzzle, involving several objects or a single object composed of one or more movable parts, whose solution requires moving from an initial state to a predefined final state. They were first classified by Louis Hoffmann in Puzzles Old And New.

Peter Knoppers-Peters Non-flipping Tri-Cairos-Mechanical-Puzzles-TheMetagrobologistJames Dalgety & Edward Hordern defined mechanical puzzles as Any hand-held objects that you can give to someone with a question starting with “Can You … ?”. Thus:- Can you put it together? Can you take it apart? Can you Drink out of it? Etcetera.

Unlike recreational math, word or jigsaw puzzles, mechanical puzzles are hand-held (Mind-boggling) tangible objects that must be manipulated to achieve a specific goal. Popular examples include Rubik’s Cube, wire disentanglement puzzles, burr puzzles, sliding block puzzles, pentominoes, tangrams, Soma Cube etc.

James Dalgety & Edward Hordern believe that to solve a mechanical puzzle, rarely does it require any special knowledge, language or education. Everyone starts at an equal level as all the information required is available in the puzzle itself.

Mechanical Puzzle Classification and Taxonomy

Currently, there exist two main classifications of puzzles. One by James Dalgety & Edward Hordern and another by Jerry Slocum (using a scheme based on Professor Hoffmann).

Jerry Slocum
Jerry Slocum

Jerry Slocum

Jerry Slocum’s Classification and Taxonomy is based on the late Angelo John Lewis, more commonly known as Professor Hoffmann. Professor Hoffmann catalogued most of the mechanical puzzles available in Victorian London in the 1890s together with their solutions in a range of popular books. Edward Hordern reprinted one of these ‘Puzzles old and new -1893′ in 1988 in hardback.

The classification devised by Jerry Slocum encompasses 10 main classes and several subclasses and is used by the Lilly Library to catalogue his donated collection of over 30,000 puzzles.

James Dalgety & Edward Hordern

James Dalgety’s scheme encompasses fourteen main classes, with several sub-classes within each main class for even more distinctions within the categories. It is used to catalogue the enormous Hordern-Dalgety collection in the world famous Puzzle Museum.

Both Classification and Taxonomy have some synergy due to the mutually respected relationship between both renown collectors.

The Jerry Slocum Puzzle Collection

James Dalgety & Edward Hordern Puzzle Museum


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