Sir Howard Colvin

Geoffrey Tyack remembers the renowned architectural historian who died on December 27th, 2007.

Trained as a medievalist, Colvin returned from the war to an assistant lectureship at UCL, and in 1951 he published The White Canons in England. But even before the war he had conceived the idea of compiling a dictionary of English architects, and, in the intervals between teaching medieval history, at UCL and from 1948 at St John’s College, Oxford, he carried out the work in neglected archives and obscure libraries that bore fruit in 1954 as the Biographical Dictionary of English Architects 1660-1840. This immediately became an essential companion to all serious architectural historians, giving the first accurate lists of works, excluding wild attributions, and prefacing each list with a literate and often witty critical essay. A second edition followed in 1978, including much new material, especially on Scotland and early 17th-century architects: hence the new title, A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600-1840. A third edition came out in 1995, and a fourth was in the hands of the publishers at the time of his death.

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