The Storied City

The Storied City

The Quest for Timbuktu and the Fantastic Mission to Save Its Past

Book - 2017
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The story of how a team of librarians and archivists joined forces to spirit tens of thousands of ancient manuscripts into hiding when al-Qaeda-linked jihadists surged across Mali in 2012, threatening the existence of these precious documents. Relying on extensive research and firsthand reporting, Charlie English expertly twines a fraught and fascinating account of one of the planet's extraordinary places, and the myths from which it has become inseparable.
Publisher: New York :, Riverhead Books,, 2017
ISBN: 9781594634284
Branch Call Number: 966.23 ENG
Characteristics: 400 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Alternative Title: Book smugglers of Timbuktu


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Dec 05, 2017

I listened to this on audiobook from another library. It is fascinating history. Timbuktu . . .
what does that name conjure in your imagination. Storied City is a grand history. A history of empires perhaps going back to the 1100s CE. There was another book a year ago (which I listened to and liked) called The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu. The principal character in the Bad-Ass book is present in The Storied City but only in the years of the recent past. He was the librarian and with wit and derring-do he hid manuscripts - national treasures - to save them from the Islamicists who wanted a return to pure Islam, the Islam of the prophet, which made these priceless manuscripts trash to be destroyed.

Timbuktu was believed to be the golden prize for whoever could get there first. Getting there was not easy - it was inland, the geography and topography had yet to be mapped with any accuracy. The culture was hostile to Europeans. Most Europeans fell ill to diseases of the African lands. England and France were the main contenders. 17th-18th-19th centuries.

The book moves from distant past to near past, back to distant past but maybe 50 years later, as each expedition sets forth, and so on. Easy to follow the chronology. I learned so much. Oh - a wonderful anecdote. Henry Louis Gates came to Timbuktu in 1998 in prep. for a PBS doc on African history and culture. Haydera showed Gates the library and Gates began to cry. He was so overcome because in the West it was believed that there was no written history from Africa. And here he was in the presence of about 300,000 manuscripts as far back a 1100s and when Timbuktu had a university in the 1300s.

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