Dictionary of Demonology and Dictionary of Witchcraft – Collin De Plancy
(Edited, abridged and completely banjaxed by Wade Baskin)
Philosophical Library – 1965
My main reason for starting this blog was to share my thoughts and queries on the books I was reading. I had seen tumblr blogs that consisted of pictures of the kinds of books that I review here, but there was rarely any discussion on them. Goodreads usually has the books listed, but a lot of them are reviewless. There’s facebook groups that discuss books, but I generally find that their scope is either too broad or too specific for my tastes, and most of the users are insufferable imbeciles. I thought a blog to be the perfect medium to present my musings. The first book I reviewed was Wade Baskin’s translation of Collin De Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernal.
Reading that review, you’ll notice that the focus wasn’t really on the content of the book; it was more a post about my confusion over its publication and edition. Well, yesterday, 3 years after buying my copy of the Dictionary of Witchcraft, my confusion over its publication was finally alleviated.
In my initial post, I discussed my suspicion that Baskin had split De Plancy’s text into two separate volumes; the Dictionary of Witchcraft and the Dictionary of Demonology. I noted that the likelihood of me ever reading the Dictionary of Demonology was minimal due to its high price and the low quality of its counterpart. I requested information concerning this issue in my blog post, but nobody responded. I tried to pretend that I didn’t care. I tried to tell myself that it didn’t matter. For two years, I lay awake every night, wondering why Baskin had chosen to do such a thing. Why had he split the one text into two books? Had he really done so? Why was one more expensive than the other? Was it a much better book? Would the super-exciting entries in the Dictionary of Demonology make up for the dull entries in the Dictionary of Witchcraft? Had Baskin saved all the best bits for the half of the collection that I didn’t own? Eventually I decided that I was going to have to get my hands on a copy of the Dictionary of Demonology, regardless of the cost. I wasn’t going to be paying for the book; I was paying for peace of mind.
Can you imagine my excitement when I arrived home on Tuesday to find the book in my postbox?
Eagerly I dashed inside. I forced myself to get changed and pour a cup of tea before I opened the package. I wanted the moment to be perfect. I put on my fez and a crisp shirt, and took the Dictionary of Witchcraft off the shelf and placed it on the coffee table so that it could get a good view of the unboxing of its sister text. After carefully pulling the order slip from the packaging to make sure that this was the text I was expecting, I gingerly took the book from the envelope, and lo and behold!
It’s a slightly larger version of the other book. I don’t mean larger as in expanded; I mean the pages are a little bit bigger. Apart from the title, the Dictionary of Demonology is word-for-word the same book as the Dictionary of Witchcraft. It’s just an earlier edition.
Oh, I am fortune’s fool! I am a stupid dunce. I wear a nappy and pick my bum.
One of the very few differences between the books, this mysterious, apple-holding princess appears only on the cover of DoD.
Looking back, it seems pretty obvious that this would have been the case. There is a note in the Dictionary of Witchcraft that reads,’Originally published under the title Dictionary of Demonology’. I’m not sure how I overlooked this, although it might have something to do with the fact that this claim is erroneous. This book was actually ‘originally published’ under the title Dictionnaire Infernal!
Both books claim to have been published in 1965. Maybe the Dictionary of Demonology saw a limited run and turned out more popular than expected. Then the publishers could have decided to put out a second edition (using smaller paper to save on printing costs). This would account for the fact that Dictionary of Demonology is much harder to find than Dictionary of Witchcraft. (Also, the listed price on the book cover is $10 for DoD, but only 6 for DoW.)
The comic-sans title really screws with the tone of my bookshelf.
I know this post doesn’t really say anything about the content of either book (the earlier post speaks on that a little), but it has been immensely gratifying to write. I have wasted far more time and money on these books than is reasonable, but at least now I have answers. Maybe someday a person who is wondering about the difference between these two books will end up on this page, and my folly will be their deliverance. I can rest easy tonight, knowing that I might so aid the community.
7 thoughts on “A Big Mistake… Dictionary of Demonology vs. Dictionary of Witchcraft”
Great post! I know the feeling of dealing with the mystery of texts published under different names with no apparent reason given.
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One thing about being interested in the occult, either as a historic tradition or a spiritual discipline: you’ve got to love books. I wonder how much longer that interest will last? I wrote a similar observation here: https://georgecaseblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/11/books-of-the-damned/
Good post…Looking forward to more.
Is that not an overly romantic view of the occult community? I’d imagine that modern witches consult tumblr and pinterest regarding their practice more often than they do books.
Did occultists read more in the past? Probably, but that doesn’t mean they were closer to understanding/commanding magical secrets.
You may be right about tumblr and pinterest, but it seems to me that the occult belongs to the printed page more than it does to the World Wide Web, in the same way that mainstream religions are based on holy scriptures rather than Facebook memes. Information that’s instantly accessible to anyone with a computer is hardly “hidden knowledge.” Wherever the occult’s going in the next decades, they won’t be your great-great-great-great-great-grandfather’s Black Masses… Thanks for commenting.
I totally get your point. I mean, my blog is almost exclusively on esoteric/spooky books. I don’t really review websites or movies, and I think that’s because of this somewhat ridiculous notion in my head that true arcane wisdom can only be transmitted through printed text.
What it really comes down to is the fact that it just doesn’t work as well if you’re flirting with a goth babe anđ say;
‘Once upon a midnight dreary, while I browséd, weak and weary,
through many a quaint and curious website of forgotten lore…’
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I just bought this book… I thought that maybe I bought the wrong version because mine is just a compilation of demon names but thanks to you now I know that both versions are the same exact crap and that I’m stupid for buying it
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I feel your pain. I’m here for you if you need to talk about it!