The Interpretation of Dreams: 1st November 1899 (published as 1900): Sigmund Freud

by Julia Evans on November 1, 1899

Flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo

Die Traumdeutung

Index of this post

Note : References by Jacques Lacan to Interpretation of Dreams

(1) Bibliographical German and English (p33-34 pfl)

(2) Availability

(3) Contents

(4)  Chronological table of Freud’s works

(5) Editor’s (James Strachey) Introduction (p34-43 pfl)

(6) Prefaces by Sigmund Freud

(7)  Appendix : List of Writings by Freud Dealing Predominantly or Largely with Dreams

(8) Bibliographies

A : Author Index and List of Works referred to in the Text.

B : List of other ‘Works on Dreams Published Before the Year 1900

(9) Index of Dreams

A : Dreamt by Freud himself :  Pfl p819 –

B : Dreamt by Others

Note : References by Jacques Lacan to Interpretation of Dreams

– V THE MATERIAL AND SOURCES OF DREAMS, (A) Recent and Indifferent Material in Dreams : Seminar I: 30th June 1954 : Jacques Lacan : See Seminar I: Freud’s papers on technique: 1953-1954 : begins on 18th November 1953 : Jacques Lacan or here

– VI THE DREAM-WORK, (A) The Work of Condensation : Seminar I: 30th June 1954 : Jacques Lacan : See Seminar I: Freud’s papers on technique: 1953-1954 : begins on 18th November 1953 : Jacques Lacan or here 

– VII THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE DREAM PROCESSES : P598 – 600 of SE Vol V :  Section E The Primary and Secondary Processes : Seminar IV : 28thNovember 1956 : See Seminar IV : The Object Relation & Freudian Structures 1956-1957 : begins 21st November 1956 : Jacques Lacan or here

Related text

The Flavour of Nightmare by Oriol Corbacho, 30th November 2019, LRO 195, See   or

(1) Bibliographical (German and English)

(A) German Editions:  Die Traumdeutung

1900 First German edition (issucd 1899) :Leipzig and Vienna Pp. iv + 375.

1909 2nd ed. (Enlarged and revised.) + 389.

1911 3rd ed. (Enlarged and revised.) Pp. x + 418.

1914 4th ed. (Enlarged and revised.) Pp.x + 498.

1921 5th ed. (Enlarged and revised.) Pp. ix  + 474.

1922 6th cd. (Reprint of 5th ed. except for new preface and revised bibliography.) Pp.vii + 478.

1922 7th ed. (Reprint of 6th ed.).

1925 Gesammelte Schriften, 2 and part of 3. (Enlarged and revised.) Pp. 543 and 1-185.

1930 8th ed. (Enlarged and revised.) Pp.x + 435.

1942 Gesammelte Werke, Double volumc 2/3. (Reprint of 8th ed.) Pp. xv + 1-642.

(B) English Translations:

1913 First English translation (by A. A. Brill), London and New York. Pp. xiii + 510.

1915 2nd cd. (Reprint of 1913.)

1932 3rd ed. (Completely revised and largely rewritten by various unspecified hands.) London and Ncw York. Pp.6oo.

1938 In ‘The Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud’, 181-549, New York. (Incomplete reprint of 3rd ed., lacking almost all of Chapter I.)

1953 Standard Edition, 4 and part of 5. Pp. xxxii + 1-338 and 339-627: Translated by James Strachey.

Also Penguin Freud Library (pfl) : Volume 4, The Interpretation of Dreams : 1976

(2) Availability

A copy in word available at / freud. Please note: Many transcription errors have been removed, and more remain.  You are advised to check with a printed edition.

(2b) A copy with footnotes of part of (E) The Primary and Secondary Processes – Repression: p756 – 762 of pfl, Volume 4, The Interpretation of Dreams: of the Section VI The Dream-Work, Part (G) Absurd Dreams – Intellectual Activity in Dreams: pfl p759 onwards is available in Notes on p19-27 of Seminar VII: 25th November 1959: Reading Group of 27th October by Julia Evans on October 27, 2012 or here

(2c) Editor’s Introduction to Sigmund Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams : 1953 : James Strachey : Available here

(2d) Letter from Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess known as Letter 114 : 6th August 1899 : Sigmund Freud or here : Sigmund Freud outlines the process used when writing this text & comments on its publication.

(2e)  Letter to Wilhelm Fliess known as Letter 119 : 21st September 1899 : Sigmund Freud or here : Sigmund Freud’s criticisms of ‘Interpretation of Dreams’ style and literary form.

(2f) Chapter II The Method of Interpreting Dreams : an Analysis of a Specimen Dream (Irma’s injection) :

p169-199 of Interpretation of Dreams : October 1899 [1900] : Published   Penguin Freud Library : Volume 4, Interpretation of Dreams : 1991

Available /freud

Also : Documents which help explain Freud’s case of Mathilde S. and its relation to the Mathilde in Freud’s dream of Irma’s injection in Chapter II of The Interpretation of Dreams. Available bilingual at  /Freud/Philosophy-9. Mathilde Schleicher page

(2g) Chapters I – IV,  Chapter V,  Chapter VI,   Chapter VII, Bibliography & Indices for SE IV & V  are  published bilingual at /home page (1. The complete bilingual of THE INTERPRETATION OF DREAMS and ON DREAMS)

(3) Contents (page numbers as in the pfl edition)

From Interpretation of dreams (Strachey, J. (1953). The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume IV (1900): The Interpretation of Dreams (First Part), i-xiii. The Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-analysis, London.)

    (A) The Relation of Dreams to Waking Life 7
    (B) The Material of Dreams—Memory in Dreams 11
    (C) The Stimuli and Sources of Dreams 22
      (1) External Sensory Stimuli 23
      (2) Internal (Subjective) Sensory Excitations 30
      (3) Internal Organic Somatic Stimuli 33
      (4) Psychical Sources of Stimulation 39
    (D) Why Dreams are Forgotten after Waking 43
    (E) The Distinguishing Psychological Characteristics of Dreams 48
    (F) The Moral Sense in Dreams 66
    (G) Theories of Dreaming and its Function 75
    (H) The Relations between Dreams and Mental Diseases 88
    Postscript, 1909 93
    Postscript, 1914 95

– v –

    (A) Recent and Indifferent Material in Dreams 165
    (B) Infantile Material as a Source of Dreams 189
    (C) The Somatic Sources of Dreams 220
    (D) Typical Dreams 241
      (α) Embarrassing Dreams of Being Naked 242
      (β) Dreams of the Death of Persons of whom the Dreamer is Fond 248
      (γ) Other Typical Dreams 271
      (δ) Examination Dreams 273
    (A) The Work of Condensation 279
    (B) The Work of Displacement 305
    (C) The Means of Representation in Dreams(D) Considerations of Representability(E) Representation by Symbols in Dreams – Some Further Typical Dreams(F)  Some Examples – Calculations and Speeches in dreams(G)  Absurd Dreams – Intellectual activity in dreams(H)  Affects in Dreams(I) Secondary RevisionVII THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE DREAM PROCESS(A) The Forgetting of Dreams(B) Regression(C) Wish-Fulfilment(D)  Arousal in Dreams – The Function of Dreams – Anxiety-Dreams(E)  The Unconscious and Consciousness – RealityAppendix: List of Writings by Freud dealing predominantly or largely with DreamsBibliographiesIndex of Dreams (A


This table traces very roughly some of the main turning-points in Freud’s intellectual development and opinions. A few of the chief events in his external life are also included in it.

Available from /freud   

(5) EDITOR’S (James Strachey) INTRODUCTION

Die Traumdeutung was actually first published early in November, 1899, though its title-page was post-dated into the new century. It was one of the two books – the ‘Three Essays on the Thcory of Sexuality (1905d) was the other – which Freud kept more or less systematically ‘up to date’ as they passed through their series of editions. After the third edition of the Present work, the changes in it were not indicated in any way; and this produced a somewhat confusing effect on the reader of the later editions, since the new material sometimes implied a knowledge of modifications in Freud’s views dating from times long subsequent to the period at which the book was originally written. In an attempt to get over this difficulty, the editors of the first collected edition of Freud’s works (the Gesammelte Schriften) reprinted the first edition of ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ in its original form in one volume, and put into second volume all the material that had been added subsequently. Unfortunately, however, the work was not carried out very systematically, for the additions themselves were not dated and thereby much of the advantage of the plan was sacrificed. In subsequent editions a return was made to the old, undifferentiated single volume.

By far the greater number of additions dealing with any single subject are those concerned with symbolism in dreams. Freud explains at the beginning of Chapter VI, Section E (p.466 pfl) of the present work, that he arrived late at a full realization of the importance of this side of the subject. In the first edition, the discussion of symbolism was limited to a few pages at the end of the Section on ‘Consideration of Representability’ in Chapter VI. In the second edition (1909), nothing was added to this Section; but, on the other hand, several pages on sexual symbolism were inserted at the end of the Section on ‘Typical Dreams’ in Chapter V. These were very considerably expanded in the third edition (1911), while the original passage in Chapter VI still remained unaltered. A reorganization was evidently overdue, and in the fourth edition (1914) an entirely new Section on symbolism was introduced into Chapter VI, and into this the material on the subject that had accumulated in Chapter V was now transplanted, together with a quantity of entirely fresh material. No changes in the structure of the book were made in later editions, though much further matter was added. After the two-volume version (1925) – that is, in the eighth edition (1930) – some passages in the Section on ‘Typical Dreams’ in Chapter V, which had been altogether dropped at an earlier stage, were re-inserted.

In the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh editions (that is from 1914 to 1922), two essays by Otto Rank (‘Dreams and Creative Writing’ and ‘Dreams and Myths’) were printed at the end of Chapter VI, but were subsequently omitted.

There remain the bibliographies. The first edition contained a list of some eighty books, to the great majority of which Freud refers in the text. This was left unchanged in the second and third editions, but in the third a second list was added, of some forty books written since 1900. Thereafter both lists began to increase rapidly, till in the eighth edition the first list contained some 260 works and the second over 200. At this stage only a minority of the titles in the first (pre-1900) list were of books actually mentioned in Freud’s text; while, on the other hand, the second (post-1900) list (as may be gathered from Freud’s own remarks in his various prefaces) could not really keep pace with the production of analytic or quasi-analytic writings on the subject. Furthermore, quite a number of works quoted by Freud in the text were not to be found in either list. According to a letter from Freud to André Breton (1933e), from the fourth edition onwards Otto Rank was entirely responsible for these bibliographies.

(2) The Present English Edition

The present translation is based on the double volume 2/3 of Gesammelte Werke, which is itself a reprint of the eighth (1930) edition – the last published during its author’s life. It is re-printed, with corrections and some editorial modifications, from the Standard Edition, which differs from all previous editions (both German and English) in an important respect, for it is in the nature of a ‘Variorum’ edition. An effort has been made to indicate, with dates, every alteration of substance introduced into the book since its first issue. An effort has been made to indicate, with daates, every alteration of substance introduced into the book since its first issue. Throughout the succeeding editions, Freud was more concerned to add material, rather than to cut anything out. Cancelled Passages and earlier versions of material later dropped or greatly modified by Freud have not, for the most part, been reproduced in the present edition [Footnote 1, p36 They will, however, be found in the footnotes to Volumes 4 and 5 of the ‘Standard Edition’.], though a few examples, which seemed of particular interest have been included in the editorial footnotes. Rank’s two appendices to Chapter VI have been omitted (they are also excluded from the Standard Edition): the essays are entirely self-contained and have no direct connection, with Freud’s book, and they would have filled another fifty pages or so.

The bibliographies have been entirely recast and have been reproduced here, with corrections and additions from Volume 5 of the English Standard Edition of Freud’s works. The first bibliography contains a list of every work actually referred to in the text or footnotes or in the introductory sections of the present volume. The second contains all the works in the Gesammelte Werke pre-1900 list not actually quoted by Freud. It has seemed worth while to print this, since no other comparably full bibliography of the older literature on dreams is easily accessible. Writings after 1900, apart from those actually quoted and so in the first bibliography, have been disregarded. A warning must, however, be issued in regard to both these lists. Investigation revealed a very high proportion of errors in the previous German bibliographies. These were corrected wherever possible in the Standard Edition, and a certain number more have been eliminated in the present edition; but quite a number of the entries have proved so far untraceable, and these (which arc distinguished by an asterisk) must be regarded as suspect.

Editorial additions, which include footnotes, references for quotations, and a large number of internal cross-references, arc printed in square brackets.  [By and large, James Strachey’s additions are missing from the copy available to download.]

A word must be added upon the translation itself. Great attention has had, of course, to be paid to the details of the wording of the text of dreams. Where the English rendering strikes the reader as unusually stiff, he may assume that the stiffness has been imposed by some verbal necessity determined by the interpretation that is to follow. Where there arc inconsistencies between different versions of the text of the same dream, he may assume that there are parallel inconsistencies in the original. These verbal difficulties culminate in the fairly frequent instances in which an interpretation depends entirely upon a pun. There are three methods of dealing with such situations. The translator can omit the dream entirely, or he can replace it by another parallel dream, whether derived from his own experience or fabricated ad hoc. These two methods have been the ones adopted in the main in the earlier translations of the book. But there are serious objections to them. We must remember that we arc dealing with a scientific classic. What we want to hear about arc the examples chosen by Freud – not by someone else. Accordingly the present translator has adopted the pedantic and tiresome third alternative of keeping the original German pun and laboriously explaining it in a square bracket or footnote. Any amusement that might be got out of it completely evaporates in the process. But that, unfortunately, is a sacrifice that has to be made.

(3) Historical

As we learn from his letter to Fliess (1950a), [SeeLetter to Wilhelm Fliess known as Letter 114 : 6th August 1899 : Sigmund Freud or here] Freud worked intermittently on the book from late in 1897 until September, 1889. The theories expressed in it, however, had been developing, and the material accumulating, for a considerable time before this.

Apart from a number of scattered references to the subject which, in his correspondence, go back at least as early as 1882 – the first important published evidence of Freud’s interest in dreams occurs in the course of a long footnote to the case of Frau Emmy von N., under the date of May 15, in Breuer and Freud’s Studies on Hysteria (1895), (pfl P.F.L., v3, p127 n). He is discussing the fact that neurotic patients seem to be under a necessity to bring into association with one another any ideas that happen to be simultaneously present in their minds. He goes on: ‘Not long ago I was able to convince myself of the strength of a compulsion of this kind towards association from some observations made in a different field. For several weeks I found myself obliged to exchange my usual bed for a harder one, in which I had more numerous or more vivid dreams, or in which, it may be, I was unable to reach the normal depth of sleep. In the first quarter of an hour after waking I remembered all the dreams I had had during the night, and I took the trouble to write them down and try to solve them. I succeeded in tracing all these dreams back to two factors: (1) to the necessity for working out any ideas which I had only dwelt upon cursorily during the day – which had only been touched upon and not finally dealt with; and (2) to the compulsion to link together any ideas that might be present in the same state of consciousness. The senseless and contradictory character of the dreams could be traced back to the uncontrolled ascendancy of this latter factor.’

In September of this same year (1895) Freud wrote the first part of his ‘Project for a Scientific Psychology’ (published as an Appendix to thc Fliess correspondence [See The Project for a Scientific Psychology: 23rd & 25th September & 5th October 1895: Sigmund Freud  or here ]) and Sections 19, 20 and 21 of this ‘Project’ constitute a first approach to a coherent theory of dreams. It already includes many important elements which re-appear in the present work, such as (1) the wish-fulfilling character of dreams, (2) their hallucinatory character, (3) the regressive functioning of the mind in hallucinations and dreams, (4) the fact that the state of sleep involves motor paralysis, (5) the nature of the mechanism of displacement in dreams and (5) the similarity between the mechanisms of dreams and of neurotic symptoms. More than all this, however, the ‘Project’ gives a clear indication of what is probably the most momentous of the discoveries given to the world in The Interpretation of Dreams- the distinction between the two different modes of mental functioning, the Primary and Secondary Processes.

This, however, is far from exhausting the importance of the ‘Project’ and of the letters to Fliess written in connection with it towards the end of 1895. It is no exaggeration to say that much of the seventh chapter of The Interpretation of Dreams and, indeed, of Freud’s later ‘rnetapsychological’ studies, has only become fully intelligible since the publication of the ‘Project’.

Although it is not possible to enter here into any detailed discussion of the subject, [Footnote below] the crux of the position can, however, be indicated quite simply.

[Footnote: The reader will find further information in the volume itself (Freud, 1950a), and in Ernst Kris’s illuminating introduction to it [See  Introduction to ‘The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess 1887-1904′ : 1950 : Ernst Kris or here]. Siegfried Bernfeld’s paper on ‘Freud’s Earliest Theories (1944) is also of great interest in this connection.]

The essence of Freud’s ‘Project’ lay in the notion of combining into a single whole two theories of different origin. The first of these was derived ultimately from the physiological school of Helmholtz, of which Freud’s teacher,the physiologist Brücke,was a principal member. According to this theory, neurophysiology, and consequently psychology, was governed by purely chemico-physical laws. Such, for instance, was the ‘principle of constancy’, frequently mentioned by both Freud and Breuer and expressed in these terms in 1892 (in a posthumously published draft, Breuer and Freud, 1940): ‘The nervous system endeavours to keep constant something in its functional relations that we may describe as the “sum of excitation”.’ The second main theory called into play by Freud in his ‘Project’ was the anatomical doctrine of the neurone, which was becoming accepted by neuro-anatomists at the end of the eighties. (The term ‘neurone’ was only introduced, by Waldeyer, in 1891.) This doctrine laid it down that the functional unit of the central nervous system was a distinct cell, having no direct anatomical continuity with adjacent cells. The opening sentences of the ‘Project’ show clearly how its basis lay in a combination of these two theories. Its aim, wrote Freud, was ‘to represent psychical processes as quantitatively determinate states of specifiable material particles’. He went on to postulate that these ‘material particles’ were the neurones and that what distinguished their being in a state of activity from their being in a state of rest was a ‘quantity’ which was ‘subject to the general laws of motion’. Thus a neurone might either be ’empty’ or ‘filled with a certain quantity’, that is’ cathected’. [Footnote 1: It must be emphasized that these speculations of Freud’s date from a period many years before any systematic investigations had been made into the nature of nervous impulses and the conditions governing their transmission.] ‘Nervous excitation’ was to be interpreted as a ‘quantity’ flowing through a system of neurones, and such a current might cither be resisted or facilitated according to the state of the ‘contact-barriers’ between the neurones. (It was only later, in 1897, that the term ‘synapse’ was introduced by Foster and Sherrington.) The functioning of the whole nervous system was subject to a general principle of inertia’, according to which neurones always tend to get rid of any ‘quantity’ with which they may be filled – a principle correlative with the principle of ‘constancy’. Using these and similar concepts as his bricks, Freud constructed a highly complicated and extraordinarily ingenious working model of the mind as a  piece of neurological machinery.

But obscurities and difficulties began to accumulate and, during the months after writing the ‘Project’, Freud was continually emending his theories. As time passed, his interest was gradually diverted from neurological and theoretical on to psychological and clinical problems, and he eventually abandoned the entire scheme. And when some years later, in the seventh chapter of the present book, he took the theoretical problem up once more – though he certainly never gave up his belief that ultimately a physical groundwork for psychology would be established [Footnote 1:  –  Cf. the remark below (p. 758f .) in his discussion of the primary and secondary processes : ‘The mechanics of these processes are quite unknown to me; anyone who wished to take these ideas seriously would look for physical analogies to them and find a means of picturing the movements that accompany excitation of neurones.’] – the neurophysiological basis was ostensibly dropped. Nevertheless – and this is why the ‘Project’ is of importance to readers of The Interpretation of Dreams – much of the general pattern of the earlier scheme, and many of its elements, were carried over into the new one. The systems of neurones, which Freud had previously postulated, were replaced by psychical systems or agencies; a hypothetical ‘cathexis’ of psychical energy took the place of the physical ‘quantity’; the principle of inertia became the basis of the pleasure (or, as Freud here called it, the unpleasure) principle. Moreover, some of the detailed accounts of psychical processes given in the seventh chapter owe much to their physiological forerunners and can be more easily understood by reference to them. This applies, for instance, to the description of the laying down of memory-traces in the ‘mnemic systems’, to the discussion of the nature of wishes and of the different ways of satisfying them, and to the stress laid upon the part played by verbal thought-processes in the making of adjustments to the demands of reality.

All of this is enough largely to justify Freud’s assertion that The Interpretation of Dreams’ was finished in all essentials at the beginning of 1896 ‘(Freud, ‘On the History of the Psycho-Analytic Movement’, 1914d, near the end of section I). (Three points of theoretical importance, which Freud only established later, were the existence of the Oedipus complex – which led to the emphasis on the infantile roots of the unconscious wishes underlying dreams-, the omnipresence in dreams of the wish to sleep, and the part played by ‘secondary revision’.)

Both the manuscript and the proofs were regularly submitted to Fliess by Freud for his criticism. He seems to have had considerable influence on the final shape of the book, and to have been responsible for the omission of certain passages, evidently on grounds of discretion. But the severest criticisms came from the author himself and these were directed principally against the style and literary form. ‘I think’, he wrote on 21 September, 1899 (1950a, Letter 119 – See Letter to Wilhelm Fliess known as Letter 119 : 21st September 1899 : Sigmund Freud or here), when the book was finished, ‘my self-criticism was not entirely unjustified. Somewhere hidden within me I too have some fragmentary sense of form, some appreciation of beauty as a species of perfection; and the involved sentences of my book on dreams, bolstered up on indirect phrases and with sidelong glances at their subject-matter, have gravely affronted some ideal within me. And I am scarcely wrong in regarding this lack of form as a sign of an incomplete mastery of the material.’

_But in spite of these self-criticisms, and in spite of the depression which followed the almost total neglect of the book by the outside world – only 351 copies were sold in the first six years after publication- The Interpretation of Dreams was always regarded by Freud as his most important work: ‘Insight such as this’, as he wrote in his preface to the third English edition, ‘falls to one’s lot but once in a lifetime

(6) Prefaces by Sigmund Freud

 Preface to the First Edition (pfl p 44-45)

I have attempted in this volume to give an account of the interpretation of dreams; and in doing so I have not, I believe, trespassed beyond the sphere of interest covered by neuro-pathology. For psychological investigation shows that the dream is the first member of a class of abnormal psychical phenomena of which further members, such as hysterical phobias, obsessions and delusions, are bound for practical reasons to be a matter of concern to physicians. As will be seen in the sequel, dreams can make no such claim to practical importance; but their theoretical value as a paradigm is on the other hand proportionately greater. Anyone who has failed to explain the origin of dream-images can scarcely hope to understand phobias, obsessions or delusions or to bring a therapeutic influence to bear on them.

But the same correlation that is responsible for the importance of the subject must also bear the blame for the deficiencies of the present work. The broken threads which so frequently interrupt my presentation are nothing less than the many points of contact between the problem of the formation of dreams and the more comprehensive problems of psycho pathology. These cannot be treated here, but, if time and strength allow and further material comes to hand, will form the subject of later communications.

The difficulties of presentation have been further increased by the peculiarities of the material which I have had to use to illustrate the interpreting of dreams. It will become plain in the course of the work itself why it is that none of the dreams already reported in the literature of the subject or collected from unknown sources could be of any use for my purposes. The only dreams open to my choice were my own and those of my patients undergoing psycho-analytic treatment. But I was precluded from using the latter material by the fact that in its case the dream-processes were subject to an undesirable complication owing to the added presence of neurotic features. But if I was to report my own dreams, it inevitably followed that I should have to reveal to the public gaze more of the intimacies of my mental life than I liked, or than is normally necessary for any writer who is a man of science and not a poet. Such was the painful but unavoidable necessity; and I have submitted to it rather than totally abandon the possibility of giving the evidence for my psychological findings. Naturally, however, I have been unable to resist the temptation of taking the edge off some of my indiscretions by omissions and substitutions. But whenever this has happened, the value of my instance has been very definitely diminished. I can only express a hope that readers of this book will put themselves in my difficult situation and treat me with indulgence, and further, that anyone who finds any sort of reference to himself in my dreams may be willing to grant me the right of freedom of thought – in my dream-life, if nowhere else.

Preface to the Second Edition (pfl p46-48)

If within ten years of the publication of this book (which is very far from being an easy one to read) a second edition is called for, this is not due to the interest taken in it by the professional circles to whom my original preface was addressed. My psychiatric colleagues seem to have taken no trouble to overcome the initial bewilderment created by my new approach to dreams. The professional philosophers have become accustomed to polishing off the problems of dream-life (which they treat as a mere appendix to conscious states) in a few sentences – and usually in the same ones; and they have evidently failed to notice that we have something here from which a number of inferences can be drawn that are bound to transform our psychological theories. The attitude adopted by reviewers in the scientific periodicals could only lead one to suppose that my work was doomed to be sunk into complete silence; while the small group of gallant supporters, who practise medical psycho-analysis under my guidance and who follow my example in interpreting dreams and make use of their interpretations in treating neurotics, would never have exhausted the first edition of the book. Thus it is that I feel indebted to a wider circle of educated and curious-minded readers, whose interest has led me to take up once more after nine years this difficult, but in many respects fundamental, work.

I am glad to say that I have found little to change in it. Here and there I have inserted some new material, added some fresh points of detail derived from my increased experience, and at some few points recast my statements. But the essence of what I have written about dreams and their interpretation, as well as about the psychological theorems to be deduced from them – all this remains unaltered: subjectively at all events, it has stood the test of time. Anyone who is acquainted with my other writings (on the aetiology and mechanism of the psycho-neuroses) will know that I have never put forward inconclusive opinions as though they were established facts, and that I have always sought to modify my statements so that they may keep in step with my advancing knowledge. In the sphere of dream-life I have been able to leave my original assertions unchanged. During the long years in which I have been working at the problems of the neuroses I have often been in doubt and sometimes been shaken in my convictions. At such times it has always been the Interpretation of Dreams that has given me back my certainty. It is thus a sure instinct which has led my many scientific opponents to refuse to follow me more especially in my researches upon dreams.

An equal durability and power to withstand any far-reaching alterations during the process of revision has been shown by the material of the book, consisting as it does of dreams of my own which have for the most part been overtaken or made valueless by the march of events and by which I illustrated the rules of dream-interpretation. For this book has a further subjective significance for me personally – a significance which I only grasped after I had completed it. It was, I found, a portion of my own self-analysis, my reaction to my father’s death-that is to say, to the most important event, the most poignant loss, of a man’s life. Having discovered that this was so, I felt unable to obliterate the traces of the experience. To my readers, however, it will be a matter of indifference upon what particular material they learn to appreciate the importance of dreams and how to interpret them.

Wherever I have found it impossible to incorporate some essential addition into the original context, I have indicated its more recent date by enclosing it in square brackets.¹


¹ [Footnote added 1914.] In later editions these were omitted.

Preface to the Third Edition  (pfl p 49-50)

Nine years elapsed between the first and second editions of this book, but after scarcely more than a single year a third edition has become necessary. This new turn of events may please me; but just as formerly I was unwilling to regard the neglect of my book by readers as evidence of its worthlessness, so I cannot claim that the interest which is now being taken in it is a proof of its excellence.

Even the Interpretation of Dreams has not been left untouched by the advance of scientific knowledge. When I wrote it in 1899, my theory of sexuality was not yet in existence and the analysis of the more complicated forms of psycho-neurosis was only just beginning. It was my hope that dream-interpretation would help to make possible the psychological analysis of the neuroses; since then a deeper understanding of neuroses has reacted in turn upon our view of dreams. The theory of dream-interpretation has itself developed further in a direction on which insufficient stress had been laid in the first edition of this book. My own experience, as well as the works of Wilhelm Stekel and others, have since taught me to form a truer estimate of the extent and importance of symbolism in dreams (or rather in unconscious thinking ). Thus in the course of these years much has accumulated which demands attention. I have endeavoured to take these innovations into account by making numerous interpolations in the text and by additional footnotes. If these additions threaten at times to burst the whole framework of the book or if I have not everywhere succeeded in bringing the original text up to the level of our present knowledge, I must ask the reader’s indulgence for these deficiencies: they are the results and signs of the present increasingly rapid development of our science. I may even venture to prophesy in what other directions later editions of this book – if any should be needed – will differ from the present one. They will have on the one hand to afford a closer contact with the copious material presented in imaginative writing, in myths, in linguistic usage and in folklore; while on the other hand they will have to deal in greater detail than has here been possible with the relations of dreams to neuroses and mental diseases.

Herr Otto Rank has given me valuable assistance in selecting the additional matter and has been entirely responsible for correcting the proofs. I owe my thanks to him and to many others for their contributions and corrections.

VIENNA, Spring 1911

Preface to the Fourth Edition (pfl p51)

Last year (1913) Dr. A. A. Brill of New York produced an English translation of this book (The Interpretation of Dreams, G. Allen & Co., London).

On this occasion Dr. Otto Rank has not only corrected the proofs but has also contributed two self-contained chapters to the text – the appendices to Chapter VI.

VIENNA, June 1914

Preface to the Fifth Edition (p52)

Interest in the Interpretation of Dreams has not flagged even during the World War, and while it is still in progress a new edition has become necessary. It has not been possible, however, to notice fully publications since 1914; neither Dr. Rank nor I have any knowledge of foreign works since that date.

A Hungarian translation, prepared by Dr. Hollós and Dr. Ferenczi, is on the point of appearing. In 1916-17 my Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis were published in Vienna by Hugo Heller. The central section of these, comprising eleven lectures, is devoted to an account of dreams which aims at being more elementary and at being in closer contact with the theory of the neuroses than the present work. On the whole it is in the nature of an epitome of the Interpretation of Dreams, though at certain points it enters into greater detail.

I have not been able to bring myself to embark upon any fundamental revision of this book, which might bring it up to the level of our present psycho-analytic views but would on the other hand destroy its historic character. I think, however, that after an existence of nearly twenty years it has accomplished its task.


Preface to the Sixth Edition (pfl p53)

Owing to the difficulties in which the book trade is placed at present, this new edition has long been in demand, and the preceding edition has, for the first time, been reprinted without any alterations. Only the bibliography at the end of the volume has been completed and brought up to date by Dr. Otto Rank.

Thus my assumption that after an existence of nearly twenty years this book had accomplished its task has not been confirmed. On the contrary, I might say that it has a new task to perform. If its earlier function was to offer some information on the nature of dreams, now it has the no less important duty of dealing with the obstinate misunderstandings to which that information is subject.

VIENNA, April 1921

Preface to the Eighth Edition (pfl p54-55)

During the interval between the publication of the last (seventh) edition of this book in 1922 and the present one, my Gesammelte Schriften have been issued in Vienna by the Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Verlag. The second volume of that collection consists of an exact reprint of the first edition of the Interpretation of Dreams, while the third volume contains all the additions that have since been made to it. The translations of the book which have appeared during the same interval are based upon the usual, single-volume, form of the work: a French one by I. Meyerson published under the title of La science des rêves in the ‘Bibliothèque de Philosophie Contemporaine’ in 1926; a Swedish one by John Landquist, Drömtydning (1927); and a Spanish one by Luis López Ballesteros y de Torres, which occupies Volumes VI and VII of the Obras Completas. The Hungarian translation, which I thought was on the point of completion as long ago as in 1918, has even now not appeared.

In the present revised edition of the work I have again treated it essentially as an historic document and I have only made such alterations in it as were suggested by the clarification and deepening of my own opinions. In accordance with this, I have finally given up the idea of including a list of works on the problems of dreams published since the book’s first appearance, and that section has now been dropped. The two essays which Otto Rank contributed to earlier editions, on ‘Dreams and Creative Writing’ and ‘Dreams and Myths’, have also been omitted.

VIENNA, December 1929

Preface to the Third (Revised) English Edition (pfl p56)

In 1909 G. Stanley Hall invited me to Clark University, in Worcester, to give the first lectures on psycho-analysis. In the same year Dr. Brill published the first of his translations of my writings, which were soon followed by further ones. If psycho-analysis now plays a role in American intellectual life, or if it does so in the future, a large part of this result will have to be attributed to this and other activities of Dr. Brill’s.

His first translation of The Interpretation of Dreams appeared in 1913. Since then much has taken place in the world, and much has been changed in our views about the neuroses. This book, with the new contribution to psychology which surprised the world when it was published (1900), remains essentially unaltered. It contains, even according to my present-day judgement, the most valuable of all the discoveries it has been my good fortune to make. Insight such as this falls to one’s lot but once in a lifetime.

VIENNA, March 15, 1931


[It would scarcely be an exaggeration to say that dreams are alluded to in the majority of Freud’s writings. The following list of works (of greatly varying importance) may however be of some practical use. The date at the beginning of each entry is that of the year during which the work in question was written. The date at the end is that of publication; and under that date fuller particulars of the work will be found in the General Bibliography. The items in square brackets were published posthumously.]

[1895 ‘Project for a Scientific Psychology’ (Sections 19, 20 and 21 of Part I). (1950a) Available : The Project for a Scientific Psychology: 23rd & 25th September & 5th October 1895: Sigmund Freud  or here]

1899 The Interpretation of Dreams. (1900a.)

[1899 ‘A Premonitory Dream Fulfilled.’ (1941c.) Availability: A Premonitory Dream Fulfilled : 10th November 1899 : Sigmund Freud  or here  ]

1901 On Dreams (1901a) (Available:  On Dreams : 1901: Sigmund Freud or here)

1901 ‘Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria.’ [Original title: ‘Dreams and Hysteria.’] (1905e).

1905 Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious (Chapter VI). (1905c.)

1907 Delusions and Dreams in Jensen’s ‘Gradiva’. (1907a.)

1910 ‘A Typical Example of a Disguised Oedipus Dream.'(1910l.)

1911 ‘Additions to the Interpretation of Dreams.’ (1911a.)

1911 ‘The Handling of Dream-Interpretation in Psycho-analysis.’ (1911c.)

1911 ‘Dreams in Folklore’  (with Ernst Oppenheim). (1958a)

1913 ‘An Evidential Dream’ (1913a. )

1913 ‘The Occurrence in Dreams of Material from Fairy Tales.’ (1913d)

1913 ‘Observations and Examples from Analytic Practice.’ (1913h.)

1914 ‘The Representation in a Dream of a “Great Achievement”.’ (19143.)

1914 ‘From the History of an Infantile Neurosis’  (Section IV). (1918b.)

1916 Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis (Part II). (1916-1917.)

1917 ‘A Metapsychological Supplement to the Theory of Dreams.’ 1915 [1917d]

Published 1917d: ‘Metapsychologishe Ergänzung zur Traumlehre’: Collected Papers vol 4 p137 or SE XIV or PFL vol 11 ‘On Metapsychology’ p223 – 244,  published bilingual by / Freud: The Metapsychological Papers, Papers on Technique and others (9. A Metapsychological Supplement to the Theory of Dreams)

1920 ‘Supplements to the Theory of Dreams.’ (1920f.)

1922 ‘Dreams and Telepathy.’ (1922a)

1923 ‘Remarks upon the Theory and Practice of Dream-Interpretation.’ (1923c.)

1923 Josef Popper-Lynkeus and the Theory of Dreams.’ (1923f.)

1925 ‘Some Additional Notes on Dream-Interpretation as a Whole.’ (1925i.)

1929 ‘A Letter to Maxime Leroy on a Dream of Descartes.'(1929b.)

1932  ‘My Contact with Josef Popper-Lynkeus.’ (1932c.)

1932 New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis (Lectures 29 and 30). (1933a.)

[1938 An Outline of Psycho-Analysis (Chapter V). (1940a)]

(8) BIBLIOGRAPHIES (pfl p 789)

A : Author Index and List of Works referred to in the Text.

B : List of other ‘Works on Dreams Published Before the Year 1900

Availability:  Both List A & B available at /freud   


A : Dreamt by Freud himself :  Pfl p819 –

B : Dreamt by Others (The names or descriptions in brackets are the dreamers followed by the reporter’s.)

Both lists available at /freud


Note : If links to any required text do not work, check If a particular text or book remains absent, contact Julia Evans.


Julia Evans

Practicing Lacanian Psychoanalyst


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