Friday, July 11, 2008

Stolen First Folio Found

It's nice to be able to report some good news once in a while!

A copy of Shakespeare's First Folio stolen from the Durham University Library in December 1998 has been recovered. "A 51-year-old man, claiming to be an international businessman who had acquired the volume in Cuba," brought the book to the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C. for authentication on 16 June, and agreed to leave the book at the library for research. Folger staff quickly determined the book had been stolen and contacted the FBI (who in turn contacted Durham University officials).

The Guardian reports that the suspect, now named as Raymond Scott, was arrested yesterday in the town of Washington, Tyne & Wear (near Durham).

Bill Bryson, who is chancellor at Durham (and the author of a recent bio of the Bard) told the paper "Like Shakespeare himself, this book is a national treasure, giving a rare and beautiful snapshot of Britain's incredible literary heritage. I'll certainly be joining the crowds who will be eagerly welcoming it home."

Other materials were taken along with the Folio in 1998, including "two handwritten manuscripts from the late 14th or early 15th century, one bearing an English translation of the New Testament and the other being a fragment of a poem by the Canterbury Tales author, Geoffrey Chaucer. A Beowulf edition printed in 1815 and two editions of the Old English epic by the 10th century scholar Aelfric, one printed in 1566 and the other in 1709, were also taken." Police confirmed that "other old volumes" were found in the suspect's home, but could not say whether they were the others missing from Durham.

Folger spokesman Garland Scott said "A great book is found and will be going home, and that's great news for Shakespeare lovers and rare book lovers everywhere. We're happy we could help."

Updates as I get them!

[Update: More on Raymond Scott, from the Northern Echo, where he's described as an "eccentric book dealer" who "lives with his elderly mother, Hannah" and seems to have a penchant for sports cars and, eh, unorthodox behavior: "Neighbours told how he would wear wrap around shades and a dressing gown to iron his car's seats - and then take the bus into town to do his shopping." Also a note on the provenance of the volume: It was acquired by John Cosin, bishop of Durham, and was part of the library he established in Durham in 1669.]