Wednesdays NY Times had an article on the digitizing of the extraordinary abundance of documents that have been preserved in Timbuktu, Mali, once a prosperous trading crossroads and important intellectual center, but now a symbol of exotic remoteness, as in "From here to Timbuktu." Whenever I hear of something like this, I always wonder what treasures might be found!An excerpt from the Times article:

Many documents in the graceful Arabic calligraphy are a visual delight. Although the writing is mostly in Arabic, quite a few manuscripts are in vernaculars adapted to the Arabic script, which is sure to pose a challenge for scholars."The manuscripts of Timbuktu add great depth to our understanding of Africas diverse history and civilizations," said Rahim S. Rajan, the collection development manager at Aluka [the organization sponsoring the work].Researchers have been struck by the range of subjects that attracted Timbuktus scholars over several centuries and into the 19th century. Most of the first digitized ones are from the 17th through 19th centuries. The topics include the sciences of astronomy, mathematics and botany; literary arts; Islamic religious practices and thought; proverbs; legal opinions; and historical accounts.

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.

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