Librarian tells of shock at discovery of priceless stolen book

A LIBRARIAN described in court yesterday the "heart-dropping" moment he realised a first edition of Shakespeare's works that he had been asked to authenticate was a priceless text stolen a decade earlier.

Staff at the renowned Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC called the British Embassy, Durham Police and the FBI after being handed the book by Raymond Scott in 2008.

Scott, 53, of Wingate, County Durham, posed as a wealthy playboy who claimed to have discovered the First Folio of Shakespeare's works on holiday in Cuba.

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But experts at the library discovered that the artefact – which had pages missing and its bindings and cover removed – was a 1623 edition stolen from Durham University in 1998.

Scott, who has denied theft and handling and transporting stolen goods, intended to sell the book at auction, and then share the money with friends in Cuba, the trial at Newcastle Crown Court heard.

Experts estimated the First Folio to be worth 1 million, even in its damaged state.

Richard Kuhta, of the Folger Shakespeare Library, said: "He said he had something to show me

… I was startled by the way in which the book was being handled and by the sudden realisation that the man seemed to know it was a first edition.

"I had never had someone come into the library and put a Folio in front of me, much less a First Folio."

Mr Kuhta identified the book as the Folio stolen from an exhibition at Durham University's Palace Green Library in December 1998.

Mr Kuhta said: "My heart sank. It was a feeling of sadness to think we were dealing with stolen property.

"This is one of the most important books, not just in the history of literature, but in the English language."

The trial continues.