Missing Durham First Folio Found?

Missing Durham First Folio Found?

A British man arrested over the theft of a First Folio edition of Shakespeare insists he is innocent. Raymond Scott, 51, walked into Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., June 16 seeking authentication for a 17th-century book that experts now say was stolen from Durham University Library in England in December 1998. But Scott claims the item he lent to the Folger was a different copy of the First Folio that he came across in Havana, Cuba, through a friend of his 21-year-old fiancée Heidy Garcia Rios, the London Daily Mail reported July 18.

Scott’s story is that Odeiny Perez, a former bodyguard for Castro, asked him to take the book to the United States to have it authenticated—something Perez cannot do as a Cuban national. Perez told him it had been in his family since 1877. When Scott took it to the Folger, Librarian Richard J. Kuhta said he’d like to have an independent expert, Stephen Massey, fly in from New York to examine it, so Scott left the folio in D.C. and returned home to Washington, a town in northeast England.

On July 8, Massey informed Scott that he suspected the book was the Durham University First Folio—one of many rare books stolen in a multimillion-dollar theft—because it had “exactly the same dimensions.” Two days later, FBI agents working with the Durham police arrested Scott, raided his home, confiscated hundreds of books, questioned him, then released him on bail. He faces arraignment in November, after police have had time to look at all the evidence. Scott lives only 12 miles from the university but claims never to have visited there, according to the July 17 Washington Post.

In a July 17 Slate article, Portland (Oreg.) State University Shakespeare expert Paul Collins wrote that the Durham folio had a number of identifying characteristics that should allow a precise identification—a patched hole in the colophon, a broken clasp, and a specific annotation on Troilus and Cressida. But the Washington Post reported July 12 that Scott’s folio was flimsy, with no binding and a few of the opening pages removed.

Meanwhile, Scott has proclaimed his innocence in the British newspapers and recommended in the July 19 Darlington Northern Echo that Durham University sell off all its rare books to raise “billions of pounds” that could benefit the school and the rest of County Durham. The police would not comment on the case while it was still under investigation.

Posted on August 14, 2008. Discuss.