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Lewis was educated at Charterhouse and Goldsmiths', where his contemporaries included Denton Welch and Carel Weight. From 1951 to 1963 he taught graphic design at the Royal College of Art. With Michael Twyman and Maurice Rickards, he was a pioneer in the study of printed ephemera, and in 1962 published the first major book in the field, Printed Ephemera: the changing uses of type and letterforms in English and American printing. In the 1960s Lewis also edited an influential series of paperbacks for Studio Vista in the UK and Reinhold in the US, including authors such as Peter Cook, Theo Crosby, Alan Fletcher, Ken Garland, Bob Gill, Norman Potter, David Pye, Paul Rand and Alison and Peter Smithson.
- 1947 A Handbook of Printing Types
- 1954 Graphic Design: with special reference to lettering, typography and illustration
- 1962 Printed Ephemera: the changing uses of type and letterforms in English and American printing
- 1964 (with Bob Gill) Illustration: aspects and directions
- 1965 Typography: basic principles
- 1966 Handbook of Type and Illustration
- 1967 The Twentieth Century Book: its illustration and design
- 1976 Collecting Printed Ephemera: a background to social habits and social history, to eating and drinking, to travel and heritage
- 1978 Typography: design and practice
- 1994 Such Things Happen: the life of a typographer
- Barker, Nicolas (28 December 1996). "Obituary: John Lewis". The Independent. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
- Lewis, John (1961). "In pursuit of ephemera". Motif. 7: 84–9.
- Kevin Murphy; Sally O'Driscoll (30 January 2013). Studies in Ephemera: Text and Image in Eighteenth-Century Print. Bucknell University Press. pp. 34–5. ISBN 978-1-61148-495-3.
- John Lewis (1994). Such Things Happen: the life of a typographer. Stowmarket, Suffolk: Unicorn Press. pp. 12ff, 30–1. ISBN 0-906290-06-6.
- Patrick Hickman Robinson (20 February 1998). "Obituary: Maurice Rickards". The Independent. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
- Johnston, Alastair. "The Misery of Edwin Drood". Booktryst. Retrieved 14 December 2016.
- John Lewis (1994). Such Things Happen: the life of a typographer. Stowmarket, Suffolk: Unicorn Press. pp. 157, 171, 205 (Appendix 3 is a list of titles in the series). ISBN 0-906290-06-6.
- "John Lewis Printing Collection". Retrieved 27 January 2013.
- Ruth Artmonsky (2012). "Do you want it good or do you want it tuesday?". Eye. 21 (84). Retrieved 27 January 2013.
- Rob Waller (10 March 2011). "In praise of Studio Vista, Ken Garland and the good old days". Retrieved 19 November 2012.
- Rebecca Fulleylove (9 March 2016). "Grand Budapest Hotel graphic designer Annie Atkins on her favourite books". It's Nice That. Retrieved 16 March 2017.