The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts by Joshua Hammer
#HayHOWLs series in support of Hay-on-Wye Library (show your support here)
It is cold and damp in Hay and I am missing the warmth of the high desert of Utah. That reminded me of our twin town of Timbuktu and then by coincidence the postman delivered The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu so I quickly boiled an egg, popped it in my camel eggcup, toasted the last of the duck-shaped rolls and pulled out our own North African Manuscript from its camel-hide satchel.
Timbuktu in Northern Mali, was a centre of learning in the Middle Ages. While most of Europe was illiterate there were over 25,000 scholars debating, reading and writing and copying out texts in this city. Mathematics, Sciences, Astrology, Astronomy, Comparative religion and even the rights of women were some of the topics that were studied.
There are thousands of manuscripts in the area, many of them were collected up and preserved in fine libraries only to be threatened and destroyed by radical Islamists when they occupied the area. Joshua Hammer’s book covers the attempt by Timbuktu’s main custodians of these precious collections to rescue the manuscripts and keep them safe.
Having been very much part of our early twinning adventures – I visited Timbuktu to ask them to choose us nearly ten years ago and then again a year later – I am looking forward to reading this. I’ve met many of the people the story revolves around. I loved Mali and the rich mixture of African and North African cultures within its borders. The Festival in the Desert was something that everyone should visit once in their lives.
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