The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 9, Number 4
Jul 1985


Trobas Book-Washing Machine

The April issue of AN carried, on p. 43, a brief description of a "papierwasmachine" described in De Boekbinder, Nov. 1984. A large packet of information on this and other processes, in English and German, has been received at the AN office from the inventor, Karl Trobas, Chief of the Restoration Lab of the Styria Provincial Archives in Gras, Austria.

The story of the paper washing machine is told in a two-page typescript: Ten or more years ago there was a flood in Austria that left several hundred books heavily contaminated with sewage. Since the usual cleaning methods were ineffective, a new washing method was developed which used a special (secret formula) cleaning solution and allowed entire books to be washed without disassembly, after removal of the covers. According to another typescript, the dirt is always removed but the paper is never bleached or harmed. the patina of the paper is preserved (does paper have a patina?).

After an initial bath in 96% denatured spirit, 1% Irgasan P7 and 3% of an unmentioned and unspecified ingredient, the book blocks are submerged in tap water and Book Cleaning Solvent, 60:1--so the process is essentially aqueous. The special solvent is available from Karl Trobas, 13 Schützenhofgasse, A-8010 Gras, Austria, while negotiations are underway to have the solvent produced industrially. The operator presses dissolved impurities out from the submerged books by hand, working from the center of the binding edge outward. Several changes of tap water and band pressings follow to rinse out chemicals. An alcohol bath, with one or two changes, will accelerate drying. Drying is done by placing the book face down on blotting paper, cardboard or wrapping paper, at different openings. the book is placed in a press when dry, then the cover reattached.

This method, it is stated, "can be applied in the treatment of all printed books with the exception of hand-colored prints and books produced in art printing paper." There is no mention in the English language literature received, of whether the thread ever shrinks, tearing the spine folds at the kettle stitch. No professional literature is cited.

Other material enclosed in the package includes ads for i) a simple hand-held sheet former or leafcaster, developed by Karl Trobas and designed and built by Union Instrument Co.; 2) Trobas's 1980 book, Papierrestaurierung in Archiven, Bibliotheken und Sammlungen; Probleme und Methoden, which describes an electrolytic deacidification method; and 3) Trobas's ABC des Papiers; Die Kunst, Papier zu machen.

Another enclosed item, a reprint from Austria Today, describes the electrolytic treatment in glowing terms. Since no documentation is offered to support these remarkable claims, they should perhaps be taken with a grain of salt:

A new method has now been developed by Karl Trobas, head of the restoration workshop in Gras. The paper threatened with destruction is freed of the dangerous acids within 15 minutes by an electrolytic process, and with one hundred percent effectiveness. The process also permits the bleaching of yellowed sections without the use of chemicals. Attempts are now being made to clean books and documents by electrolytic means, but also to "immunize" then against future attack by acids and other chemical dangers.

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