looks like a brain map 🙂
The Timbuktu Manuscripts
Many think of Timbuktu as a fable or, at most, a place best known for its absolute remoteness and inaccessibility. Although the journey there is indeed difficult, Timbuktu is a city that was once one of the most important centers of scholarly learning in the Islamic world. To this day, Timbuktu is well known for its collection of manuscripts that comprise over 700,000 documents, mostly from the 16th to 18th centuries, but some dating to the 13th century.
Timbuktu became a wealthy city by the 12th century, based on its prime location at the intersection of two important trade routes – the trans-Saharan caravan routes and the Niger River, which gave access to western Africa and eventually, the sea. The wealth the city accumulated was used to build mosques and centers of learning which attracted scholars, leading to the establishment of libraries and academies. At its height, over 25,000 scholars resided in Timbuktu, some from as far away as Cairo, Baghdad and Iran.
The city came into decline after the Moroccan invasion in the late 16th century and again after French colonization in the late 19th century, leading to the exodus of scholars and dispersion of much of the city’s literary works. It is believed that many of these documents are still hidden today in private homes, buried in the desert or that they have been sold on the black antiquities market. Various organizations worldwide are assisting in the efforts to collect, restore and digitize Timbuktu’s historic documents.
Reference: National Geographic, January 2011: The Telltale Scribes of Timbuktu
Photograph: Taken in the Al-Imam Essayouti Manuscript Library. Some of Timbuktu’s manuscripts were privately owned and used by successive generations as sources of information for business and other activities. Over the generations, the text was often amended or expanded by adding notes in the margins as seen in this document.