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History burnt

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Feb 15, 2012 | From the print edition

History>> Fire • Egypt

imageThousands of historical documents could be lost following a fire at Institute of Egypt. It broke out during clashes in Tahrir Square last month. An army of restoration workers is working day and night to save the resources.

Founded by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1798 during the French expedition to Egypt, the institute is one of the oldest academies of arts and sciences outside Europe. It holds over 200,000 rare reference books and bound manuscripts dating back to the 1500s in Arabic, French, English, German and Russian.

Napoleon led the efforts to compile the prominent work, La Description de l’Egypte, a 23-volume tome, dating back to 1809. Over 150 French scholars had compiled the tome, which describes Egyptian civilisation, nature and contemporary life. Its first edition has been partly damaged. The other works feared burnt are handwritten letters, travelogues and tens of thousands of maps. Unesco’s director general Irina Bokova called it an “irreversible loss”.
 

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