He was a free-thinker influenced by Voltaire. Between and , he resided in Brussels , and then in the Netherlands, before he returned to France after having converted to the Catholic religion. Collin de Plancy followed the tradition of many previous demonologists of cataloguing demons by name and title of nobility, as it happened with grimoires like Pseudomonarchia Daemonum and The Lesser Key of Solomon. In , his best known work, Dictionnaire Infernal , was published. In , some images were added that made it famous: imaginative drawings concerning the appearance of certain demons.
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History[ edit ] Dictionnaire Infernal was first published in and then divided into two volumes, with six reprints—and many changes—between and This book attempts to provide an account of all the knowledge concerning superstitions and demonology. A review in read: Anecdotes of the nineteenth century or stories, recent anecdotes, features and little known words, singular adventures, various quotations, compilations and curious pieces, to be used for the history of the customs and the mind of the century in which we live, compared with centuries past.
The cover page for the edition reads: Infernal Dictionary, or, a Universal Library on the beings, characters, books, deeds, and causes which pertain to the manifestations and magic of trafficking with Hell; divinations, occult sciences, grimoires , marvels, errors, prejudices, traditions, folktales, the various superstitions, and generally all manner of marvellous, surprising, mysterious, and supernatural beliefs.
Influenced by Voltaire , Collin de Plancy initially did not believe in superstition. For example, the book reassures its contemporaries as to the torments of Hell: "To deny that there are sorrows and rewards after death is to deny the existence of God; since God exists, it must be necessarily so. But only God could know the punishments meted out to the guilty, or the place that holds them. All the catalogues made herebefore are only the fruit of a more or less disordered imagination.
Theologians should leave to the poets the depiction of Hell, and not themselves seek to frighten minds with hideous paintings and appalling books" p.
By the end of he was an enthusiastic Roman Catholic , to the consternation of his former admirers. This influence is most clearly seen in the sixth and final edition of the book, which is decorated with many engravings and seeks to affirm the existence of the demons.
But the cards, merely human artifacts, not knowing either the future, nor the present, nor the past, have nothing of the individuality of the person consulting them.
For a thousand different people they will have the same result; and consulted twenty times about the same subject, they will produce twenty contradictory productions" p.
Jacques Collin de Plancy
DICTIONNAIRE INFERNAL (1863)