Sunday, July 13, 2008

Scott: "I'm Innocent"

Today's Daily Mail features comments from Raymond Scott, the man arrested this week in connection with the theft of the Durham First Folio. Scott has apparently now been released from custody [on bail], as he is described as giving the interview while "sipping Dom Perignon champagne and puffing on a giant Havana cigar." There's also a picture.

Scott claims "I have done nothing wrong at all." He says he bought the Shakespeare volume in Cuba, and that it is not the same book stolen from Durham University in 1998. He seems to think he baffled the police: "During the interview with the police I asked, 'How can you possibly know we are dealing with the same book?' 'They shuffled in their seats and looked uncomfortable. I am afraid the celebrations at Durham University were premature, it is not the manuscript that was stolen.'"

First of all, it is decidedly not a manuscript, Mr. Scott, it is a printed book. And the very suggestion that the Folger's staff would have gotten the identification wrong seems to me utterly ludicrous (even though I have learned since writing on Friday that, most unfortunately, identifying marks were removed from the Durham book, making its captors barbarians as well as thieves). First Folios don't just pop up out of nowhere, it's as simple as that. Knowing the collation and the distinctive characteristics of the Durham copy should have easily enabled conclusive proof. An official at Durham said of Scott's claims "The book was identified by leading experts at the Folger Library. They are confident of its authenticity as the one which was stolen from Durham University." If full First Folio census results were accessible online (which they don't appear to be at the moment), it should be a fairly easy match, even with the destruction inflicted on the book.

More from Scott: "I am an innocent man and I believe no charges will be brought against me. I am also confident that the book will be returned to Britain, not to the University of Durham, but to me. The police are welcome to ask me anything, including my inside leg measurement, which for the record is 31 and a half inches, but I have done nothing wrong at all. They took away boxes of books in the search of my home, most of them were new and could be bought on the shelves of Waterstone's. They also caused great anxiety for my sainted mother but, other than that, achieved nothing." He told the paper he "obtained the book through 'contacts' but refused to say how much he paid."

The Independent adds that police have called in "experts on rare and antiquarian books" to help examine the "mountain of tomes" removed from Scott's house (in five "people carriers"). Their report notes that Scott's next court appearance will be in November.

Travis also weighs in on the case; I agree with him that Scott may not be the original thief (if he was, he shouldn't have needed authentication, for example). There are still some unanswered questions swirling around, which hopefully will be cleared up as we move forward.