“Ahmed Saloum Boularaf is holding a leather-bound sheaf of documents that date back to the 13th century. The manuscript contains a poetic rendition of the life of the Prophet Mohammad, written in the lacy Arabic handwriting of an African scholar who knew how to read before some Europeans even knew of the existence of books.
Like most of the 1,700 manuscripts in Mr. Boularaf’s private collection – which includes ancient books on medicine and history, astronomy and mathematics — this one is beginning to crumble, and Boularaf knows that in a very short time, his manuscripts and the knowledge they contain, could be lost forever.
“For Africans, this is a treasury of our culture, and my home is open for all the researchers of the world to come,” he says. “My grandfather had the idea that we must copy these manuscripts before they are lost. We have some manuscripts here that are so fragile that if we don’t do something quickly to study them, conserve them, they could be lost.””