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Friday, 23 August, 2002, 20:16 GMT 21:16 UK
Rescue in sight for Prague's treasures
Employees of the City Library in Prague collect some of the damaged books
Historic books are in a cold store alongside vegetables

A pioneering new technique developed in Britain is being used to save valuable books and manuscripts damaged by the recent floods in the Czech Republic.

The new method involves freezing the books and then sucking the moisture out of them using vacuum-drying equipment.

Hundreds of thousands of old and valuable manuscripts were soaked in the floods that hit Prague and hopes of saving them rest on the revolutionary technique.

Snap decision

The works include original music scores written by Mozart, the first Czech language bible dating from 1488 and documents from the Theresienstadt concentration camp, which was also submerged.

A technician at the V Dlouhe theatre uses an inflatable dinghy to get across the hall
A theatre in central Prague falls foul of floodwater

The volumes of historic material are currently resting in a deep freeze warehouse outside Prague, alongside frozen peas and spinach.

They were moved there after a snap decision by Czech authorities to save the national heritage.

The Czechs originally lacked the special vacuum-drying machines needed to suck out moisture before the books can be restored.

But the British Council in Prague has stepped in and bought three machines, meaning work will be able to begin in the next couple of weeks.

However it will take a while. The Czech culture minister has estimated it might be 100 years before all the books are restored, while some experts have said it could be even longer.


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