Saving the world’s cultural legacy
On the trail of historical and modern-day book hunters: scientists, historians, book lovers and librarians who demonstrate untiring effort and often take great risks to preserve our cultural heritage.
From ancient times to the present day, so-called book hunters have made it their mission to save, restore and preserve manuscripts, books and historical documents that are threatened by natural disasters, war or censorship. They are historians, scientists, monks, librarians and civilians who often put their lives at risk to protect our cultural heritage – books and manuscripts – against destruction in turbulent times, and preserve them for the future. The American Benedictine monk Columba Stewart has been travelling to war-torn regions of the world in search of ancient manuscripts for over 30 years. In Iraq, he supports the Dominican monk Najeeb Michael who has twice saved his library under dramatic circumstances from the clutches of radical Islamists. In the 1990s, Mustafa Jahic, guardian of Sarajevo’s last collection of manuscripts, saved 20,000 medieval documents by smuggling them eight times in banana crates across the besieged city, each time at the risk of his own life. From ancient times to the modern age, from Europe to the Middle East, we introduce courageous individuals, past and present, who have dedicated themselves to saving our cultural heritage for future generations. They are the secret heroes of history.