In the news – people in Mali burying their family’s collections of ancient manuscripts in the desert to prevent their destruction by Islamist insurgents, after fighting in the area had apparently affected the Ahmed Baba Institute library of Timbuktu manuscripts.
Part of a TImbuktu Manuscript on astronomy
The Ahmed Baba Institute of Higher Islamic Studies and Research in Timbuktu holds tens of thousands of historic manuscripts dating back to the late 13th Century, from the period when Timbuktu was a major trading settlement and centre of scholarship. Ironically many of the manuscripts in the library had survived for centuries buried in the sand or hidden in caves. It isn’t yet clear how many manuscripts have been destroyed or stolen.
An unknown number of the historic Timbuktu Manuscripts – possibly hundreds of thousands – remain in private collections held by Malian families. Some of these manuscripts are being buried in the desert for safekeeping: hopefully they’ll all be recovered soon.
H/T John Giblin