Bernard Bevan continues to be a mystery. He first published his book in 1938, but it has been impossible to find a portrait of him. His contacts with the British Foreign Service during World War II and his correspondence with Kim Philby (the famous spy, one of the Cambridge Five) could be indications of a double life as an erudite and informer. Ana Esteban Maluenda discusses this and more in the epilogue of the new edition with which the Barcelona publisher Reverté begins a new series of academic books, in collaboration with the Architectural Composition Department of the Madrid School of Architecture.
History of Spanish Architecture is one of the earliest comprehensive publications on our architecture. Other celebrated studies by foreign erudites largely focussed on a particular period. The breadth of Bevan’s ‘history’ strikes a contrast with the time he devoted to writing it. In just two years (1928-1930) he managed to order and classify a whole succession of architectural styles and give form to a book. However, the number of pages allotted to each historical period is variable (the Middle Ages get thirteen of nineteen chapters).
In the foreword to the first Spanish edition, translated and annotated by Fernando Chueca Goitia, Bernard Bevan points out that his book was meant for non-Spanish readers. Hence the placing of each building in historical context, and the emphasis made on art and architecture in Spain being a result of the assimilation of many foreign currents.