• “Welcome”

    Explore our collection of resources on book history in Africa

    Register to view our online database of African manuscripts

    Learn about the work of the Tombouctou Manuscripts Project

    Follow our regular updates from the field

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  • “Bienvenue”

    Consultez notre collection de ressources sur l’histoire du livre en Afrique

    Inscrivez-vous pour visiter en ligne notre base de données sur les manuscrits africains

    Renseignez-vous sur les travaux du Projet des Manuscrits de Tombouctou

    Suivez notre régulière actualisation des développements sur le terrain

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  • “مرحبــاً بكم”

    استكشف مجموعة المصادر المتوفرة لدينا حول تاريخ الكتاب في إفريقيا.

    سجّل لاستعراض قاعدة بيانات المخطوطات الإفريقية المتوفرة على شبكة الإنترنت.

    تعرّف على أعمال مشروع مخطوطات تومبُكتو.

    تابع آخر مستجداتنا الميدانية

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The Tombouctou Manuscripts Project


Timbuktu has often been invoked as a symbol of the most distant place on Earth, as a mysterious and exotic, but unreachable, attraction. Yet, it is a real city with a history.

Indeed, it has a rich and diverse heritage and a fascinating past. The city and its desert environs are an archive of handwritten texts in Arabic and in African languages in the Arabic script, produced between the 13th and the 20th centuries. The manuscript libraries of Timbuktu are significant repositories of scholarly production in West Africa and the Sahara. Given the large number of manuscript collections it is surprising that Timbuktu as an archive remains largely unknown and under-used. Timbuktu’s manuscript collections deserve close study. It is a significant starting-point for reflecting on Africa’s written traditions.

Recognising its significance as a site of African architecture and of its scholarly past, Unesco declared Timbuktu a World Heritage Site in 1990.

A South Africa-Mali Timbuktu Manuscripts Project was officially launched in 2003 and a major achievement of this project was the new library-archive building, which was inaugurated in Timbuktu in January 2009.

The Tombouctou Manuscripts Project at the University of Cape Town (UCT) is dedicated to research various aspects of writing and reading the handwritten works of Timbuktu and beyond. Training young researchers is an integral part of its work.