Illustration

An A-Z of Demons, Devils and Imps – Bizarre Depictions from ‘The Infernal Dictionary’

Where did the weird illustrations of hellish creatures found in the French ‘Dictionnaire Infernal’ (1836) come from?

dictionnaire infernal cover
Dictionnaire Infernal by J. Collin de Plancy

When it comes to demons, you might think that the sort of artist who set the standard in depicting the demons of Hell would have a chequered, mysterious past. Louis Le Breton’s illustrations for Jacques Collin de Plancy’s famous Dictionnaire Infernal became the main source of inspiration for how demons, monsters and fantastical beasts have been represented since the 19th Century. But oddly enough, Le Breton began a sensible career as a medical student and soon became a naval surgeon. He then went on to spend most of his life as a draftsman for the French Navy, painting completely innocuous maritime art without a sea serpent, mermaid or Kraken in sight.

A peculiar change in direction

Author's Interview with the Devil
Illustration from ‘Diable peint par lui-même’ or ‘The Devil painted by himself’ (1825) depicting Collin de Plancy, reclining on his bed, having a discussion with the devil

But towards the end of his life he dramatically changed course. He set about drawing Hell’s hierarchy of demons for Collin de Plancy, who himself was initially an occultist liberal, but became an enthusiastic Catholic later in life. Who knows, maybe they started to fear what lay in store for their souls beyond the veil of death.

An A-Z of the Occult

In any case, the Infernal Dictionary describes itself as Universal Library on the beings, characters, books, deeds, and causes which pertain to the manifestations and magic of trafficking with Hell – basically it’s an A-Z of demonology and occult.

It’s richly illustrated with the depictions of 69 demonic dukes, minions and presidents that govern Hell, most of which I’ve collected with brief descriptions below – take a look!

And to find out more about this crazy old book, there are loads more details about the demons from the Infernal Dictionary here, and you can even view the original French book online here.

 

Although they’re supposed to be demonic, to me the illustrations seem kind of funny and whimsical, and I guess I’m not the only one – illustrator James Turner has made a fab comic starring the crazy characters of hell.Click here to view it online or click to here buy Rebel Angels #1

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