George Keith Cowlishaw (1901–1983), was born in Sydney and was the son of wealthy parents. His father had extensive properties in the Darling Downs and his mother was a member of the Rabone family of Mosman. A non-practising lawyer, Cowlishaw owned about 30 properties. He was an alderman in the city of Mosman for 14 years and was Mayor in 1941–45. He lived at Telopea, a mansion in Military Road, Mosman, which had been built in 1885. He had a strong interest in gardening, experimented in orchid growing, and wrote a book and articles on palms. In his later years he lived in St Ives.
Cowlishaw’s father had been a collector and from his childhood Cowlishaw was an enthusiastic collector of stamps, coins, books and paintings. His fine collection of colonial paintings and books was sold by Sotheby’s in October 1984. It included works by John Glover, Augustus Earle, Conrad Martens, S.T. Gill, George Evans, Eugene von Guerard, Nicolas Chevalier, W.C. Piguenit and Frederick Garling.
Eileen Cowlishaw, the widow of G.K. Cowlishaw, donated his collection of gardening books to the Library under the Taxation Incentives for the Arts Scheme in 1986.
The collection comprises 1809 books and serials, published in Australia, Europe and America, relating to gardening, horticulture, botany and agriculture. Early works include:
Columella, Lucius Junius Moderatus, Of husbandry (1745)
Conder, Josiah, Landscape gardening in Japan (1893)
Dickson, Adam, A treatise of agriculture (1765)
Hooker, William J., Icones Plantarum (1837)
Lindley, John, Paxton’s flower garden (1882–84)
Mrs Loudon, The ladies flower garden of ornamental bulbous plants (184?)
Miller, Philip, The gardeners dictionary (1731).
Among the serials are:
The gardener’s magazine (1828–43)
The cottage gardener (1849–61)
The gardener’s chronicle (1847–1937)
The garden (1876–1904)
Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society (1889–1949)
My garden (1934–47)
Australian garden lover (1935–55)
Orchid review (1936–82).
The books and journals have been integrated into the Australian, Rare Books and general collections. The Library produced a G.K. Cowlishaw bookplate, which was placed in each volume. A number of duplicates were transferred to the Fisher Library at the University of Sydney.