|Cover artist||Rachana Shah|
|Genre(s)||Historical novel (British Regency era)|
|Publisher||Secretum Mundi Publishing|
|Media type||Print (Hardback)|
|Preceded by||Travels With Myself|
Timbuctoo is the fictional account of the illiterate American sailor Robert Adams' true life journey to Timbuktu, and his arrival in Regency London. The novel is written by Anglo-Afghan author, film-maker and adventurer Tahir Shah.
The full title of the book is Timbuctoo: Being a singular and most animated account of an illiterate American sailor, taken as a slave in the great Zahara and, after trials and tribulations aplenty, reaching London where he narrated his tale. The story takes place between 1810 – when Adams was shipwrecked – and the Spring on 1816, when he set sail for his home in Hudson, New York.
In the early 1990s, while "in the bowels of the London Library", the author, Tahir Shah, says he noticed an old book propping up a water pipe. Surprised that such an old and apparently valuable volume should be being used for this purpose, Shah pulled it down, and read it.
The book was The Narrative of Robert Adams, the tale of an illiterate American sailor who had been shipwrecked on the west coast of Africa at Capo Blanco in 1810. At a time when all the major European powers were eagerly dispatching their best explorers to capture and then sack Timbuktu (among them the likes of Mungo Park and Hugh Clapperton), the only people not searching for the African El Dorado, was the fledgling United States of America. And so it was all the more surprising when an illiterate American sailor was discovered half naked and starving on the streets of London in the winter of 1815, claiming rather nonchalantly, that he had been to Timbuktu. He had been taken there as a white slave, having been captured by Toureg warriors.
As Shah writes in a foreword:
"The book you hold is my own fictional version of what is surely one of the greatest stories of survival ever told. I can only offer gratitude to the reader for turning a blind eye to any historical inaccuracies, and for tolerating a novelist's liberties. I am no historian, and have massaged facts and fictions into place, re-conjuring history."
Shunning conventional publishing models, Shah decided to publish the book himself, under the name Secretum Mundi Publishing. He says he did this in part to achieve the book he had "always dreamt for", and in part to draw attention to the frailties of the existing publishing system.
Timbuctoo is produced in a limited edition of 5000 copies with six large fold out maps. Five of these are reprinted from Richard Horwood's Georgian atlas of London, the last, a facsimile of the map published in the original Narrative of Robert Adams.
- The Timbuktu Delusion in the Los Angeles Review of Books
- A Regency-era romp through decadent London hides sly lessons for the present in its plot in The Independent
- Timbuctoo by Tahir Shah: Book review in Mystical Faction blog
- Tahir Shah - Timbuctoo - Review in The View from Fez blog
- Through Time and Timbuctoo with Tahir Shah in the Mondo Ernesto blog
- Review: Timbuctoo by Tahir Shah in The Historical Dilettante blog
- Books in review: Timbuctoo writer strikes gold in Jon Rieley-Goddard's Blog
- Review: TIMBUCTOO by Tahir Shah in the Bookfabulous! blog
The first edition of Timbuctoo is a limited edition hardback, designed by Rachana Shah along the lines of the travel books of two centuries ago. It is a large book, weighing 2 kilos (almost 4.5 lbs). It has marbled endpapers, a silk bookmark, a pouch at the rear with additional inserts, and six large fold-out maps, some of which were designed by Richard Horwood. The paper is wood-free, and the cover is embossed with raised gold type.
Inspired by Timbuctoo's legend as the city of gold, Shah has hidden four golden treasures around the world. The clues to locate them are concealed within the limited edition book, and on the Timbuctoo website. Consisting of four gilded bronze heads from West Africa, the treasures have been buried in Europe, the Americas, Oceania, and Africa. Using the clues encoded in the book, and others on the web site, code-breakers will have a chance at winning one of the gilded heads. By using the GPS facility on their smart phones and iPads, treasure seekers can pinpoint the exact location of each treasure. Shah created an Indiana Jones-style video to promote the hiding of the first head.
- Shah, Tahir (November/December 1995). "The Islamic Legacy of Timbuktu". Saudi Aramco World. Retrieved 2012-05-03. Volume 46, Number 6.
- Staff (2002). "History of Timbuktu, Mali". Timbuktu Educational Foundation. Retrieved 2012-05-03.
- Baxter, Joan (15 April 2002). "Timbuktu - city of legends". BBC News Online. Retrieved 2012-05-03.
- Geoghegan, Tom (3 April 2012). "Who, What, Why: Why do we know Timbuktu?". BBC News Online. Retrieved 2012-05-03.
- Staff (April 2012). "Timbuctoo". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2012-05-02.
- Gordon, Sam (29 March 2012). "Morocco: Hunt for Djinns and Sorcerors". MoroccoBoard.com. Retrieved 2012-05-02.
- Shah, Tahir (2012). Timbuctoo. Secretum Mundi Publishing. ISBN 0957242905.
- Shah, Tahir. "The Timbuctoo Treasures". Retrieved 10 September 2012.
- Shah, Tahir. "4 Treasures of Timbuctoo". Retrieved 10 September 2012.
- Shannon, Billy (7 August 2012). "Forgotten Hudson hero comes to light in Brit’s new book". The Register Star Online (Hudson, Hudson, New York, USA). Hudson-Catskill Newspapers. Retrieved 2012-08-07.
- Carver, Robert (18 August 2012). "Timbuctoo, By Tahir Shah". The Independent. Retrieved 2012-08-18.
- Timbuctoo at the author's web site
- The Timbuctoo book web site
- The narrative of Robert Adams : an American sailor who was wrecked on the western coast of Africa, in the year 1810, was detained three years in slavery by the Arabs of the Great Desert, and resided several months in the City of Tombuctoo (1817)
- 4 Treasures of Timbuctoo