Experts on rare and antiquarian books were called in yesterday to help police search through a mountain of tomes, thought to be thousands in number, found at the home of a man arrested in connection with the theft of a £15m First Folio edition of William Shakespeare's works.
The bound volumes were seized at Raymond Scott's modest semi-detached house in Washington, Tyne and Wear, the inside of which was likened by neighbours to a personal library of antiquarian books.
Mr Scott, 51, was arrested after the 400-year-old volume surfaced in the US, 10 years after it was stolen from a glass cabinet display case at Durham University Library in 1998.
The book – described by experienced dealers as "the most important printed book in the English language" – was handed into the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC two weeks ago by a man asking for it to be "valued and verified". Staff alerted the FBI, which teamed up with Durham Police.
Mr Scott was arrested on Thursday, questioned and released on bail. He is not required to face detectives again until November, giving police time to run through his collection, which onlookers said needed "five people-carriers" to be removed from the house.
Sheila Hingley, from Durham University Library, said: "Important books very rarely disappear for ever. It's marvellous it has surfaced from wherever it has been lurking for 10 years." The university is planning a "book-warming" ceremony for its return.