The Storied City

The Storied City

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

Book - 2017
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Penguin Putnam
“Timbuktu is a real place, and Charlie English will fuel your wanderlust with true descriptions of the fabled city’s past, present, and future.” –Fodor’s 

Two tales of a city: The historical race to “discover” one of the world’s most mythologized places, and the story of how a contemporary band of archivists and librarians, fighting to save its ancient manuscripts from destruction at the hands of al Qaeda, added another layer to the legend.

To Westerners, the name “Timbuktu” long conjured a tantalizing paradise, an African El Dorado where even the slaves wore gold. Beginning in the late eighteenth century, a series of explorers gripped by the fever for “discovery”  tried repeatedly to reach the fabled city.  But one expedition after another went disastrously awry, succumbing to attack, the climate, and disease. Timbuktu was rich in another way too. A medieval center of learning, it was home to tens of thousands—according to some, hundreds of thousands—of ancient manuscripts, on subjects ranging from religion to poetry, law to history, pharmacology, and astronomy. When al-Qaeda–linked jihadists surged across Mali in 2012, threatening the existence of these precious documents, a remarkable thing happened: a team of librarians and archivists joined forces to spirit the manuscripts into hiding.

Relying on extensive research and firsthand reporting, Charlie English expertly twines these two suspenseful strands into a fraught and fascinating account of one of the planet's extraordinary places, and the myths from which it has become inseparable.

Baker & Taylor
Recounts how a team of librarians and archivists in Timbuktu, Mali started a smuggling operation to save ancient manuscripts from advancing Al Qaeda jihadists in 2012.

& Taylor

Recounts how a team of librarians and archivists in Timbuktu, Mali started a high-stakes smuggling operation to save hundreds of thousands of ancient manuscripts from advancing Al Qaeda jihadists in 2012.

Publisher: New York : Riverhead Books, 2017
ISBN: 9781594634284
Branch Call Number: 966.23 En362s 2017
Characteristics: pages cm


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Dec 18, 2017

The search for the legendary city of Timbuktu baffled European scholars and adventurers for centuries. It was only in the nineteenth century that the race buy the British, French and Prussians resulted in its "discovery" happened even though Arab camel caravans from Egypt and Sudan has been well aware of the scholarly reputation of the learned men of the remote western desert.

Charlie English intersperses the story of the European "discovery" with the modern day effort to save priceless manuscripts that document the history of this cultural treasure. Forces of the Islamic fundamentalist AQIM (Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) close in with the intent of destroying thousands upon thousands of parchments from pre and post Islamic history.

Filled with exciting information about Mali, its past and its unfortunate present. A work very well done.

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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