A brief article in the October, 2007 issue of The National Geographic Magazine caught my eye this morning.
Filed under Archaeology, the article describes how, in the 1500s, a scholar and scribe around Timbuktu by the name of Mohammed El Mawlud bought and created handwritten Arabic texts on topics ranging from theology to astronomy. When a foreign army sacked the library, destroying some of the texts and taking others, families began hiding them in caves and behind walls. More than 300,000 books survived and most are still in the hands of the families that protected them. Grants are now being used to help repair, protect, and scan these books, some of which date from the 12th century.
Read more here , a story in the Guardian Unlimited entitled In Fabled City at the End of the Earth, a Treasury of Ancient Manuscripts: In Timbuktu the Race is on to Preserve Papers that Document a West African Golden Age
And here is a link to Libraries of Timbuktu for the Preservation and Promotion of African Literary Heritage