Almanac: September

... a book called "The Interpretation of Dreams"

In November 1899, Viennese neurologist Sigmund Freud published a book called "The Interpretation of Dreams". It was the beginning of a new science he called psychoanalysis, which would revolutionise our understanding of human psychology. Freud preferred the book be known as an issue of 1900, to emphasize it's importance in introduction of the new century.

Freud said of this work, "Insight such as this falls to one's lot but once in a lifetime." The first edition begins:

"In the following pages, I shall demonstrate that there exists a psychological technique by which dreams may be interpreted and that upon the application of this method every dream will show itself to be a senseful psychological structure which may be introduced into an assignable place in the psychic activity of the waking state. I shall furthermore endeavor to explain the processes which give rise to the strangeness and obscurity of the dream, and to discover through them the psychic forces, which operate whether in combination or opposition, to produce the dream. This accomplished by investigation will terminate as it will reach the point where the problem of the dream meets broader problems, the solution of which must be attempted through other material."

Freud begins his book in the first chapter titled "The Scientific Literature on the Problems of the Dream" by reviewing different scientific views on dream interpretation, which he finds interesting but not adequate. He then makes his argument by describing a number of dreams which he claims illustrate his theory.

Later on, Freud revised the book at least eight times. The initial print run of the book was very low — it took many years to sell out the first 600 copies. However, the work gained popularity as Freud did, and seven more editions were printed in his lifetime.

Find how BBC World Service Witness hears from Sigmund Freud himself in the only known recording of his voice - from a BBC interview in 1938: