Emperors of Dreams

Originally published in 2000

2011 edition fully revised and updated with new material

Dedalus Books


Emperors of Dreams tells the story of how today’s illicit drugs were originally discovered, and reveals their impact on the nineteenth century’s dreams and nightmares.


available in Czech as paperback and ebook here


“A fascinating, highly informed study of recreational drugs in the 19th century”   Independent

“Intelligent, witty, cogent and a bit pissed off, Emperors of Dreams is one of the best books on drugs I have come across, and should be mandatory reading for anyone concerned with drug legislation.”   New Statesman

” An excellent book… it states with precision as well as poetry the nature of the drug experience.”   Guardian

“An intelligent and urbane book…Jay neatly shows that drugs did not have the histories we, from our present-day perspective, might expect.”
Roy Porter, Times Higher Educational Supplement

“Enjoyable and provocative…essential reading for anyone interested in the history of recreational drugs”
Pharmaceutical Journal

“Absorbing…anyone seeking to pass an opinion on drugs should own a copy.” .. Independent on Sunday

“I commend to Honourable Members Emperors of Dreams, an excellent book on drug use in the past century.”
Paul Flynn M.P., House of Commons



Introduction to the anthology volume ‘Oh Excellent Air Bag’: under the influence of nitrous oxide 1799-1920

The Green Jam of ‘Dr. X’: science and literature at the Club des Haschishin

‘Watson – The Needle!’: Sherlock Holmes and cocaine

Mushrooms in Wonderland: hallucinogenic fungi and Victorian fairy lore

The Pope of Opium: Thomas De Quincey, the archetypal drug fiend

Opium and the Symphonie Fantastique: the fever dreams of Hector Berlioz