Raymond Scott: Shakespeare thief


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The Independent Online

Raymond Scott, who died on 14 March, was a flamboyant antiques dealer who was jailed for handling a stolen first edition of Shakespeare's plays. Scott, who passed himself off as a wealthy playboy before his conviction, was pronounced dead after being found unconscious in his cell at Northumnberland Prison, where he was serving an eight-year sentence.

Scott, who was born in February 1957, was a cigar-loving, self-described alcoholic jailed in 2010 after he took the 1623 volume of plays to the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, and asked to have it authenticated. Experts there alerted police, who said the folio had been stolen from a display case at Durham University in 1998.

Scholars consider the Shakespeare folio one of the most important printed works in the English language. The First Folio was published seven years after Shakespeare's death and was the first collected edition of his plays. Fewer than 250 copies of the collection survive and most are incomplete.Scott, who arrived for various court appearances in a horse-drawn carriage led by a piper and later in a silver limousine, denied all charges, claiming that he had found the volume in Cuba. A jury cleared him of stealing the First Folio but found Scott guilty of handling stolen goods and removing stolen property from Britain.

Judge Richard Lowden, sentencing Scott, described him as "to some extent a fantasist" who had tried to use the book to "fund an extremely ludicrous playboy lifestyle" and to impress a woman he had met in Cuba. Prosecutors said the collector drove a yellow Ferrari and posed as an international playboy, despite living with his elderly mother on welfare benefits and amassing huge credit-card debts.