Dictionary of Witchcraft – Collin De Plancy

Philosophical Library – 1965

This was a very disappointing purchase. I bought my copy online and never had the chance to look through the book before buying it. Based on the title, I naively presumed that this book would be a translation of Dictionnaire Infernal by De Plancy. I was mostly wrong.
Instead of a straight forward translation of the Dictionnaire Infernal, this book is largely an alphabetized list of French witches. Some of the entries are vaguely entertaining, but none of them are particularly believable. I liked the entry on Tanchelin:

In 1125 a heretic named Tanchelin was revered to such a degree in some provinces that people drank his urine and preserved his excrement as a relic. The money that came to him…enabled him to have good food and superb service. Fathers begged him to sleep with their daughters and wives.

That’s all it says. This is certainly a valuable nugget of information, but there’s no mention of Tanchelin’s witchy heresies! (I googled him. His name was Tanchelm, his heresies weren’t particularly wicked and he was dead by 1115.)

Now I’m not one to get upset when a book isn’t convincing, but this book isn’t merely unconvincing; it’s deceiving. It actually refers to itself as ‘The Dictionary of Demonology’ in Wade Baskin’s introduction, and then on the very next page it uses the title ‘The Dictionary of Witchcraft’. The slightly embarrassing entry on the book’s own author mentions, ‘this dictionary, of which the first edition appeared in two volumes in 1818’ (1818 being the year Dictionnaire Infernal was published!), and also specifically references the book as the ‘second edition of the Dictionary of Demonology’. In 1965 the Philosophical Library publishing company  released this book and a different book titled ‘Dictionary of Demonology’.   Perhaps Baskin was trying to recreate the ‘two volume’ feel of the 1818 edition of the book and purposely split the entries into the categories of witchcraft and demonology. That would be acceptable if it was actually alluded to somewhere in this book. Baskin’s shitty editing makes it all the more irritating.

I can’t be entirely sure if the books are a pair; the other book costs far more than this one, and I’m not willing to risk another expensive disappointment. Also, it’s difficult to compare the entries in this piece of crap with the French text online. It is a translated dictionary after all. I know I’ve written a lot about this frustrating inconvenience, but I couldn’t find any discussion on this topic and I’d love to hear from anyone who could clear up this confusion.

To add insult to my frustration, I noticed that the covers of the two books differ slightly. In every image that I have found online, the Dictionary of Witchcraft has a purple rectangle and the Dictionary of Demonology has a blue rectangle.

My Dictionary of Witchcraft has a blue rectangle…

Overall I’ll give it 4/10. It was more trouble than it was worth but still fun.

I also have a copy of the Dictionary of Satanism by Wade Baskin that was published by the same company. I might review that if I manage to forgive Baskin.

(October 2016 update: The mystery over this publication and its mysterious companion has now been solved. Dictionary of Demonology is word-for-word the same book as the Dictionary of Witchcraft. Click here for full details.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s