Recent work by Mauro Nobili, Shahid Mathee, Bruce Hall, and others, has called attention to neglected manuscript material and moved the study of the Timbuktu chronicles to a new stage. It is now possible to ask new questions about the relations between episodes of literary activity dating from the 17th, 19th, and 20th centuries. The paper attempts to explore some of these questions. It also suggests it is useful in the context to go beyond oppositions between oralcy and literacy. Rather, West African mechanisms for the recycling of oral and written tradition need to be examined together and compared.