Timbuktu manuscript library torched

Today’s Guardian reports (along with many other news organizations, including the LA Times), according to the mayor of Timbuktu, that an important library and research center along with a collection of some 20,000 antique manuscripts dating back to the 13th century, has been burned.

Public domain image from Wikimedia

Timbuktu mayor: Mali rebels torched library of historic manuscripts
Fleeing Islamist insurgents burnt two buildings containing priceless books as French-led troops approached, says mayor.

The manuscripts were held in two separate locations: an ageing library and a new South African-funded research centre, the Ahmad Babu Institute, less than a mile away. Completed in 2009 and named after a 17th-century Timbuktu scholar, the centre used state-of-the-art techniques to study and conserve the crumbling scrolls.

Both buildings were burned down, according to the mayor, who said the information came from an informer who had just left the town. Asked whether any of the manuscripts might have survived, Cissé replied: “I don’t know.”

–Luke Harding in Sévaré
Monday 28 January 2013 12.07 EST

Public Domain image above is from Wikimedia Commons. Public domain Copyright expired.

Post Script: Perhaps one can hold out an increment of hope based on this comment in the Los Angeles Times article linked above: “The mayor spoke to the Guardian by phone and was not in Timbuktu but in the Malian capital of Bamako. And it is not yet known how much damage was done to the library, which had also been in the process of digitizing many of the documents. Many of the documents were stored in underground vaults.”

Post post script: From RFI:

Samiel Jeppie, the head of the South Africa’s Cape Town University’s project to conserve the manuscripts, on Wednesday said that reports had greatly exaggerated the damage, telling the AFP news agency that he believed more than 90 per cent had been saved.

And also this: “Timbuktu ancient manuscripts ‘safe and sound’, experts say.”

One comment

  1. http://www.tombouctoumanuscripts.org/blog/entry/timbuktu_update/
    “The custodians of the libraries worked quietly throughout the rebel occupation of Timbuktu to ensure the safety of their materials. A limited number of items have been damaged or stolen, the infrastructure neglected and furnishings in the Ahmad Baba Institute library looted but from all our local sources – all intimately connected with the public and private collections in the town – there was no malicious destruction of any library or collection.”

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