The Dictionnaire Infernal is a 19th-century encyclopedia of the occult and demonology, written by Collin de Plancy and illustrated by Louis Breton. It is one of the most comprehensive and influential works on the subject, containing entries on demons, occult phenomena, and superstitions.
Collin de Plancy’s Life and Work
Collin de Plancy was a French writer who specialized in these subjects and produced several books on them. He first published the Dictionnaire Infernal in 1818, as a skeptical and rational investigation of the occult world. He was influenced by Voltaire and other Enlightenment thinkers, and he aimed to expose the errors and prejudices of his contemporaries regarding the supernatural.
Later in life, de Plancy embraced Catholicism and revised his work to conform to the Church’s views. He became an ardent defender of the faith and denounced his previous writings as erroneous and dangerous. He collaborated with Jacques Paul Migne, a French priest, to complete a Dictionary of the Occult Sciences or Theological Encyclopaedia, which is described as an authentic Roman Catholic work. In his later editions of the Dictionnaire Infernal, he affirmed the existence and power of the demons and added many engravings and stories to illustrate their nature and actions.
Louis Breton’s Art and Influence
Louis Breton was a French painter who had a medical education and a passion for marine scenes. He also participated in a scientific voyage to the South Pacific, where he observed and depicted the flora and fauna of various islands. He joined forces with Collin de Plancy to provide 69 engravings of various demons for the 1863 edition of the Dictionnaire Infernal. His images were based on his imagination and previous sources, such as grimoires, folklore, and art. He combined realistic details with fantastical elements, creating some of the most original and vivid depictions of demons ever made. His illustrations are regarded as masterpieces of occult art and have influenced many artists and writers in the genre.
Content and Structure of the Dictionnaire Infernal
The Dictionnaire Infernal compiled the names, ranks, attributes, and appearances of hundreds of demons, as well as their histories, legends, and influences on human affairs. It also covered a wide range of topics related to the occult, such as magic, divination, grimoires, folklore, and superstitions. It was organized in alphabetical order, with cross-references and citations from various sources. It was intended to be both informative and entertaining, mixing scholarly research with sensational anecdotes. Many of the demon illustrations were republished in S. L. MacGregor Mathers’ The Goetia: The Lesser Key of Solomon, a famous grimoire that describes how to summon and control 72 demons.
Below is a list of 64 demons illustrated in the book. Since 5 of the 69 engravings weren’t of demons, I have chosen not to include them here. All of these demons are cross-referenced to their longer descriptions somewhere else on this site.