Everyone knows about the libraries that burned, but what about the ones that were hidden? In desert caves and the basements of ancient cities, these libraries were sealed, sometimes for centuries, to protect books from censorship and cataclysm. But don’t worry, not all is lost – some secret libraries are uncovered, and some you can still visit, with the proper credentials
Dunhuang Cave Library
Image via Thought Co
In a series of sacred caves at the northern edge of the Gobi desert in western China, a hidden treasure trove of manuscripts from between the fourth and eleventh centuries. After being sealed for a thousand years, they were found. It took ten more years for what remained the tens of thousands of manuscripts to be collected by the Chinese government, according to the BBC. Though much was lost, the bright side is that you can view many of these documents from anywhere in the world, thanks to the efforts of The International Dunhuang Project. Happy reading!
Family History of the Silk Road
Image via Haaretz
An Afghan cave along the silk road held thousands of documents dating to the 11th century, written by a family who lived on the silk road. Written in many languages, including Arabic, Hebrew, and Persian, according to RT. They aren’t the first to be found – the Ben Daniel family, merchants from northern Afghanistan, left caches and records elsewhere on the silk road, as well – an earlier discovery was made in Egypt. The papers are expected to be sold to an appropriate institution, but nothing is confirmed.
Image via Travel with Mei and Kersten
Actually a series of thirteen libraries spread over Oxford, some more than 400 years old. These libraries are still very much active, but you’ll have to apply, as access is restricted to the most intensive research purposes, both private and institutional. Don’t be too heartbroken, though, if you’re on the wrong side of the pond – you can apply for digital access through their website if you need their collection. I’m going to have to start research on a relevant topic, just for access. And also fly across the world.
Featured image via Bodleian Libraries Blogs