Timbuktu’s Rescued Ancient Manuscripts Are Still in Danger

Ancient Timbuktu manuscript

Locals saved Timbuktu’s ancient libraries, but now the works may be threatened by government.

According to TIME magazine, a year ago .preservationists secretly reported that they had hidden most of the manuscripts of the public Ahmed Baba Institute and other collections.  TIME promised not to report that fact until after the jihadists were defeated. Now that militants know they survived, the government-operationed institute in the ancient capital of Mali has to figure out how to keep them safe from any future attack. Many works are also old and brittle, and any future moving could damage them.

Al-Qaeda backed militants recently burned the Ahmed Baba Institute which housed from 20,000 to 100,000 manuscripts dating to the 1200s.  These covered an incredible amount of subjects.  Among the collection were science, astrology, astronomy, sophisticated mathematics (comparable to modern algebra and geometry), medicine, theology (including commentaries on the prophet), geography, grammar, anatomy, women’s rights, and music.  Some were illustrated in gold.  The majority were written in Arabic, but other African languages were represented.

The mayor of Timbuktu, Halle Ousmane Cissé, may have been  unaware of the preservation effort when he was forced to leave the city.  He said, “This is a cultural crime perpetuated against world heritage.”  However, some believe he knew both of the preservation and that only a relatively small number of books were destroyed.

Timbuktu was considered one of the highest learning centers in the world.  Its library was virtually priceless, and many people had their own personal libraries.  Perhaps from 100,000 to 200,000 manuscripts are privately owned.

TIME Magazine report by Vivienne Walt at http://world.time.com/2013/02/04/timbuktus-ancient-libraries-saved-by-locals-endangered-by-a-government/

Commentary by Lila Azam Zanganeh for The New Yorker at http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2013/01/the-libraries-of-timbuktu.html

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Copy of Manuscript of Nasir al-Din Abu al-Abbas Ahmad ibn al-Hajj al-Amin al-Tawathi al-Ghalawi’s Kashf al-Ghummah fi Nafa al-Ummah. From Mamma Haidara Commemorative Library, Timbuktu; copy made in 1733 is from the U.S. Library of Congress.

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10 Responses to Timbuktu’s Rescued Ancient Manuscripts Are Still in Danger

  1. The destruction of knowledge sparks ignorance; ignorance ignites fear; fear inflames hate; hate destroys knowledge.

  2. Pet Girl says:

    That is so wrong. Nobody should be destroying old books that’s part of history. Especially when it’s somebody else’s books!

  3. Pet Girl is right this is so wrong. Burning books doesn’t solve anything except make people ignorant. Maybe that’s what they want?

    Thanks for your first post on our new blog Vern!

  4. TawTew the Naturally Perfumed says:

    Everytime creativity is destroyed there is sadness. I am at least glad most of the books were saved.

  5. Christian Andy says:

    The Bible says, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” They are burning the wrong books. I pray that God will reveal Himself to them and they will know that Jesus Christ is the only path to salvation.

  6. Jane Lane says:

    Sick Sad World.

  7. Tom T. Trucker says:

    They’re a bunch of ignorant stupid terrorists. I say we don’t have a book burning let’s have a terrorist burning. I’ll supply the propane.

  8. Melia says:

    All your base are belong to us!

Comments are closed.