In its golden era, the Malian city of Timbuktu was home to numerous Islamic scholars and the thriving book trade. Sankore Madrasah university established the city as a scholarly centre in Africa. This gave birth to thousands of manuscripts depicting learning in morality, politics, astronomy, and many other subjects.
In 2012, the manuscripts were threatened by Ansar Dine, a militant Islamist group who threatened to destroy local shrines classed as world heritage sites. Local communities and relatives of Timbuktu librarians conspired to protect the manuscripts, often in their own homes or hidden around the city.