The New Universal Dream-book


Mysticism and fortune-telling were popular subjects for the publishing industry in the early 1800s. This slim book, published by Thomas Richardson of Derby in 1838, is an alphabetical list of subjects that, according to the author, commonly appear in dreams. Each subject is accompanied by an explanation, describing the significance of the dream in relation to the dreamer’s future. (‘Apes: To dream of apes forebodes no good.’)

The interpretations, as with many similar books of the period, are hackwork credited to ‘Mother Shipton’, a traditional figure associated with soothsaying and prophecy. Samuel Pepys (1633–1703) refers to her in his diary entry of 20 October 1666.

The original Mother Shipton is usually said to be Ursula Sontheil (c. 1488–1561) of Knaresborough, Yorkshire, where ‘her cave’ is a tourist attraction. All her supposed predictions appear publications written decades or centuries after her death, with content constantly revised and new material invented – as here – for commercial purposes.

Full title:
The New Universal Dream-book or the Dreamer's Sure Guide to the Hidden Mysteries of Futurity
1838, Derby, Derbyshire
Chapbook / Illustration / Image
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library

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Article by:
Ruth Richardson
Reading and print culture, Popular culture

Chapbooks were small, affordable forms of literature for children and adults that were sold on the streets, and covered a range of subjects from fairy tales and ghost stories to news of politics, crime or disaster. Dr Ruth Richardson explains what this literature looked like, its subject matter and the ways in which it was produced.

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