Man cleared of stealing rare Shakespeare book

An antiques dealer was cleared today of stealing a rare copy of Shakespeare's First Folio.

But a jury at Newcastle Crown Court found Raymond Scott, 53, guilty of handling stolen goods and removing stolen property from the UK in relation to the book, which has been described as part of England's "cultural legacy".



The charges relate to one of the surviving copies of the 1623 compendium of Shakespeare's plays which went missing from Durham University in 1998. It was handed in by Scott to the world-renowned Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC a decade later.







Scott was remanded in custody by Judge Richard Lowden, who told him: "There will, in due time, be an inevitable substantial custodial sentence."



The judge adjourned the case to a date to be fixed to allow a psychiatric report to be prepared.













The jury of seven women and five men heard that Scott was arrested after presenting the badly damaged folio to staff at the US library and asking for it to be verified as genuine.



During the trial, the jury heard that experts at the institution, which houses a third of the world's surviving copies of the First Folio, suspected the book was stolen and called in the British Embassy, Durham Police and the FBI.



They discovered the artefact was an incredibly rare and unique example of the folio which had gone missing in a raid at Durham University in December 1998.



The book was taken from a secured glass cabinet in an exhibition of ancient English literature at the university's Palace Green Library.



It is regarded as one of the most important works of literature ever printed and part of England's "cultural legacy" to the world.



Experts found it had been "damaged, brutalised and mutilated" after it was stolen.



The 387-year-old book was shown to the court during the trial - the first time it has been displayed in public for a decade - taken into court in a padlocked black plastic strongbox and presented on a pillow next to the witness box.



Scott, of Manor Grange, Wingate, County Durham, was arrested in June 2008.



He claimed to have discovered the book in Cuba.



Scott denied all the charges but declined to give any evidence in his defence during his three-week trial.



But the jury heard that he told Durham Police detectives: "I am not saying that the experts are lying or that they are being deceptive but it rather looks as if their brief has been to compare the Cuban copy with known records of the Durham copy and look for similarities.



"It is all a very cosy world. It is sort of like a conspiracy; they are ganging up against me."



He said: "Do you seriously think I'm going to walk into the foremost Shakespeare library in the world and, using my own name and address, with my fingerprints all over it, hand them a copy knowing and believing that it's got a doubtful provenance?



"A book worth millions - that I'm going to walk into such a place with such a book and ask to see the head librarian?"



Independent experts said the book, even in its damaged state, was worth about 1.5 million dollars (£1 million).

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