Handwritten Timbuktu library Qur'an will be sold in New York

A handwritten copy of the Qur'an from one of Timbuktu's famous libraries is estimated to sell for $40,000-60,000.

It will provide one of the star lots in Swann Auction Galleries' Printed and Manuscript African-Americana sale in New York on March 31.

Timbuktu Koran library
Timbuktu, in modern-day Mali, became a centre of learning in north Africa in the 16th century

The book is written in Arabic.

The auction house explains: "The widely held theory that sub-Saharan Africans had no written language, and therefore no recorded history was a perfect rationale for slavery.

"For a couple of centuries, theologians and apologists for the slave-trade exploited this argument…

"The manuscript comes from the private library of the Infa Yattara family of Timbuktu and its features are consistent with provenance from that region."

The city was founded on the edge of the Sahara in the 12th century AD.

It became one of Africa's most important centres of learning in the 16th century, home to both a university and an entire industry based around the trading of handwritten texts.

The rise of Islamic extremism in the region has led to the destruction of some of the city's most important libraries.

In 2012, a vast number of manuscripts were secretly moved to Europe to save them from looting and destruction.

Art historian Julie Chaizemartin described the operation as "one of the biggest cultural rescue operations ever in the context of an exacerbated political-ideological war".

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