"The devil is in the details"

Posted by Masakim on September 25, 2003

In Reply to: "The devil is in the details" posted by ESC on September 25, 2003

: : Does anyone know of origin of the phrase, "The devil is in the details"?

: DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS - The Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996) shows this phrase as a variation of "God is in the details - Whatever one does should be done thoroughly; details are important. The saying is generally attributed to Gustave Flaubert (1821-80), who is often quoted as saying, 'Le bon Dieu est dans le detail' (God is in the details). Other attributions include Michelangelo, the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and the art historian Aby Warburg. 'The Devil is in the details' is a variant of the proverb, referring to a catch hidden in the details. 'Governing is in the details''and 'The truth, if it exists, is in the details' are recent variants. Listed as an anonymous saying in the sixteenth edition of Barlett's 'Familiar Quotations,' edited by Justin Kaplan."

'God is in the details.'
It seems generally accepted that this was something said by the German-born architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969) although almost certainly it was not invented by him. His obituary in The New York Times attributed it to him but the saying also appears to have been a favourite of the German art historian Aby Warburg (though E.M. Gombrich, his biographer, is not certain that it originated with him). In the form Le bon Dieu est dans le détail, it has also been attributed to Gustave Flaubert (1821-80). Subsequently, there has arisen the saying 'The devil is in the detail' which has been described as a maxim of the German pop musician, Blixa Bargeld. He probably did not invent it himself as it is mentioned in Lutz Röhrich's Lexikon der sprichwörtlichen Redensarten - as 'Der Teufel steckt im Detail'.