A surge of interest in ancient books, hidden for centuries in houses along Timbuktu’s dusty streets and in leather trunks in nomad camps, is raising hopes that Timbuktu — a city whose name has become a staccato synonym for nowhere — may once again claim a place at the intellectual heart of Africa. ...The feature includes an audio slide show and links to on online exhibit of Timbuktu manuscripts at the US Library of Congress.
Timbuktu’s new seekers [investors in the town and libraries] have a variety of motives. South Africa and Libya are vying for influence on the African stage, each promoting its vision of a resurgent Africa. Spain has direct links to some of the history stored here, while American charities began giving money after Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Harvard professor of African studies, featured the manuscripts in a television documentary series in the late 1990s.
Iconic books are texts revered as objects of power rather than just as words of instruction, information, or insight. In religious and secular rituals around the globe, people carry, show, wave, touch and kiss books and other texts, as well as read them. This blog chronicles such events and activities. (For more about iconic books, see the links to the Iconic Books Project at left.)
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Timbuktu's Old Books (3)
Posted by Jim Watts
Today's New York Times has a long article about Timbuktu's manuscript libraries. The story emphasizes the social and political stakes involved in the city's library project: