John Lewis Printing Collection

John Lewis (1912-1996) was a typographer and graphic designer who, with Michael Twyman and Maurice Rickards, pioneered the study of printed ephemera. He was the author of several books, including Printed ephemera : the changing uses of type and letterforms in English and American printing, which was published in 1962. 

The collection consists of some 20,000 items illustrating the history of printing from the fifteenth century to the present, the earliest item being a leaf from a book printed by William Caxton. Much of the material can be described as printed ephemera and includes a huge range, from bottle labels to examples of fine printing.

The collection is classified thematically and occupies about 87 boxes in which most of the specimens are mounted on large sheets - among the more intriguing categories are proclamations and broadsides 1650 onwards; artists' greeting cards (1,200 items); 19th century lottery handbills, and the advertising archive of Reckitt & Coleman, Australia.

The collection complements collections held at the Centre for Ephemera Studies in the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication.

[Image: detail of early Sunlight soap advertisement from the John Lewis Printing Collection. Reproduced with permission.]

More information

  • This collection is not yet catalogued but a handlist of the collection (PDF) listing the collection categories is available.
  • Manuscript number MS 5317
history, printing history ephemera lewis john printing

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