Opium & Opium Smoking

a source book

Original title: Opium & opiumschuiven, een bronnenboek


D.H. Duco

Opium is an intriguing subject, as the cover of this book states, well illustrated by the black cover design showing a poppy head. Opium & Opiumschuiven (opium and opium smoking) offers all you want to feed your appetite. The author, Don Duco, doesn’t leave much of the mystery, since he unveils all fictions and prejudices that mark the subject.

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As the perfect history teacher the author leads us through history, with all the insight in social and political implications that influenced Imperial China in the nineteenth century. The Opium Wars between China and the West were the sad highlights of this era. Interesting from the Dutch point of view is the special attention paid to the opium trade in the Dutch East Indies, normally disregarded in the international literature.

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In part two the author feels really at ease: as a merge of a connoisseur and an antique-roadshow-expert he describes knowledgeable the pipe in every detail. Unexpected and unknown objects, apparently used by the smokers at the time, are presented and explained. It is a pity that this part of the book isn’t printed in colour: the Chinese crafts deserve it. The first part of the book is mostly illustrated by antique prints, that haven’t much colour even in the original state.

Every detail of the book shows the systematic way of working of Duco: five chapters, each divided in five themes, 100 pages on opium production, trade, history and use, another 100 on descriptions of the objects. Very rightly the book has as a subtitle ‘a source book’, since Duco has put 700 footnotes as a reference to over 450 sources. Only 20 of these are in Dutch (mostly pre-WWII), which proves the necessity to bring out a book on opium in Dutch. We may thank Duco for reading all this literature and processing it all in a concise and lucid book.

On the website of the publisher, Pijpenkabinet Foundation that governs also the Amsterdam Pipe Museum, we learn that as curator Duco has written a dozen books on historic tobacco pipes. His excursion to the opium pipe resulted in a thorough and very useful reference book.


Publisher: Amsterdam Pipe Museum, Pijpenkabinet Foundation, Amsterdam, 2006

ISBN 978-90-70849-23-8

256 pages, 23 x 17 cm, softcover

236 illustrations

Price € 30,- (excluding P&P)