Quotes Uncovered: God or the Devil in the Details?
Each week, I’ve been inviting readers to submit quotations for which they want me to try to trace the origin, using The Yale Book of Quotations and my own research. Here is the latest round.
Kenneth Bondor asked:
How about “God is in the details,” or “The Devil is in the details”? Which is it and who said it first?
Both are common expressions. The Yale Book of Quotations, which attempts to trace all famous quotations to their earliest findable occurrences, has the following:
“Der liebe Gott steckt im Detail.” [God is in the details.] Aby Warburg, German art historian, notice of seminar at Hamburg University, Hamburg, Germany, November 11, 1925. This is documented in papers at the Warburg Institute at the University of London, described in Dieter Wuttke, Ausgewahlte Schriften und Wurdigungen (1980).
“The devil is in the details.” Proverb, First attested in Times (London), July 9, 1969.
Charles C. Roberts asked:
Can you tell me the original source for the assertion that “history is lies agreed upon” (or words to that effect)?
The YBQ has the following:
“Toutes les histoires anciens, comme le disait un de nos beaux esprits, ne sont que des fables convenues.” [Ancient histories, as one of our wits has said, are but fables that have been agreed upon.] Voltaire, Jeannot et Colin (1764).
How about “first, do no harm”? This is often attributed to the Hippocratic Oath, but it is not in the Hippocratic Oath. I’ve also seen it attributed to Hippocrates generally. Any ideas?
The Yale Book of Quotations has this:
“As to diseases make a habit of two things — to help, or at least, to do no harm.” Hippocrates, Epidemics bk. 1, ch. 11.
Any idea who first observed that “no man’s life, liberty, or property are safe so long as the legislature is in session”?
The YBQ cites “No man’s life, liberty, or property is safe while the Legislature is in session,” from Gideon J. Tucker in the legal case Final Accounting in the Estate of A.B. (1866).
Do any readers have any other quotations whose origins they would like me to attempt to trace?