Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2011 Issue

Shakespearean Thief Plans Appeal of Lengthy Sentence

Rayscott

Raymond Scott at an earlier court appearance.

Shakespearean book thief Raymond Scott is preparing an appeal of both his conviction and lengthy sentence. Scott is the very entertaining character who showed up at the Folger Library a few years back with a Shakespeare First Folio later identified as the one missing from the Durham University Library, about a dozen miles from his English home. Scott kept the public amused with a series of antics throughout the long lead-up to his trial, but once he faced the jury, the gig was up. He was actually acquitted on the theft charge, but convicted of handling stolen property and transporting it out of the country. He was sentenced to a term whose length surprised many who have observed book-related criminal cases - eight years in prison. Scott was surprised more by the length of the sentence than the conviction, though he always maintained, somewhat implausibly, that he was innocent.

 

Scott, with no apparent source of income other than a small caregiver's allowance for taking care of his aged mother, lived a playboy's lifestyle, top quality liquor and cigars, a Ferrari, and international trips. If nothing, his life was always flamboyant. Along the way, the 53-year-old Scott picked up a lovely 23-year-old Cuban girlfriend, and it was through her family he claimed to have picked up the First Folio he attempted to have appraised by the Folger. Instead, they appraised it as being the missing Durham copy and called in the police.

 

In the year leading up to his trial, Scott regularly made preliminary appearances in court in unusual outfits, arriving in luxury cars, one time a horse drawn carriage, sometimes with an attractive "assistant," and lots of expensive booze.  However, at his trial, it was revealed that in living his lavish lifestyle Scott racked up some six figures worth of credit card debt and was obviously in need of making a big time financial score. His humor was wasted on the jurors and court, who perhaps were annoyed by it, or offended by his crime and defacement of the valuable book (he evidently ripped out some preliminary leaves in an attempt to disguise the book's origin).

 

Scott recently gave an interview to the Sunday Sun and his lengthy prison sentence has not taken away the man's sense of humor. He revealed that he had stuffed the prison library's set of the works of Shakespeare under his jumpsuit and made off with it as a joke. The jailers were more amused by this ruse than the court was by his earlier one. He also revealed he has started taking a course in bookkeeping at the prison, "the double entry type of bookkeeping, not the extended borrowing type." Scott plans to release a book about his case, Shakespeare and Love, on April 23, the great writer's birthday, and claims to have 40 pre-orders already from the Royal Shakespeare Company. The complete interview from the Sun can be read at the following link: www.sundaysun.co.uk/news/north-east-news/2011/01/02/raymond-scott-lifts-lid-on-his-time-in-jail-79310-27918890/2/

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