Libraries can expand your mind in more ways than one.

A leading London mycologist has claimed that old books, particularly those stored in less than perfect conditions, can provide inspiration without the need to read even a single word; just take a deep breath.

A row of books on a shelf

In his Lancet journal paper ‘Sick Library Syndrome’, Dr R J Hay wrote that fungal growth on books could induce hallucinations and lead to the “enhancement of enlightenment and artistic endeavours”.

“The source of inspiration for many great literary figures may have been nothing more than a quick sniff of the bouquet of mouldy books,” he said.

But before you go rushing off to your nearest antique book repository, there is a caveat – while other fungus experts have confirmed the premise of Dr Hay’s results, they say it would take more than just a quick whiff to inhale enough hallucinogenic spores to seriously affect behaviour. And as yet, no study has been undertaken to determine how many mouldy books you would need to convene with, or for how long, to get sufficiently high.