Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2014 Issue

Book Released on Life of Eccentric Book Thief Raymond Scott

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Raymond Scott emerges from courthouse with his assistant, wearing his kilt.

An updated account of the life of eccentric book thief Raymond Scott was recently published. The title is Shakespeare & Love. The Inside Story of the Book Crime That Stunned the World. It is a similar title to a book published by the same author, Mike Kelly, along with Scott himself, a few years back, except this one takes us through Scott's sad death, at his own hands, in 2012. Scott was an unlikely character for a major book theft, and yet he made off with a copy of one of the most important books ever published – a Shakespeare first folio. It turned a small-time shoplifter into a celebrity of sorts, a role Scott relished as long as it lasted, but eventually proved to be his downfall.

 

Raymond Scott was an obscure resident of Washington, County Tyne and Wear, in England, most of his life. Not too many people knew him other than the local police. Scott had an aversion to real work, though he did appreciate what it brought – money. Fortunately, he had a father who was more devoted to working for money than spending it. Scott's father was an electrical engineer, and though he certainly wasn't wealthy, he did leave Raymond a little money when he died in 2004. He also left his son the role of taking care of his elderly widow, for which England provides a small caregiver's allowance.

 

Scott had long supplemented his meager income with petty shoplifting. His long resume included pilfering items as small as a bottle of wine and a smoke detector. His record was such that no one suspected him of a major heist at Durham University, a scant ten miles away. In 1998, someone stole their copy of a Shakespeare first folio. The Durham first folio disappeared without a trace, with no sign of what had happened for over a decade.

 

When Scott inherited a little money from his father, his tastes grew from small-time thief to those of an international playboy. Scott spent his money rapidly. He bought a Ferrari, fine wine, nice clothes, and began to travel. The type of thefts Scott was known for would hardly support a lifestyle like this, and his father's money was insufficient to last very long at this pace. Scott turned to the source most of us do when confronted with such expenses, not crime but credit cards. He managed to run up over $100,000 in credit card debt. Of course, even this source doesn't last forever. Alas, eventually the credit card companies want their money back, and with lots of interest.

 

By this time, the jet-setting Scott had developed a romantic interest in a beautiful young Cuban dancer. At 21-years-old, Heidi Rios was 30 years Scott's junior. She was able to overlook the difference so long as Scott lavished gifts upon her and appeared to be the wealthy Englishman he was not. In reality, he was an over 50-year-old man, highly in debt, who lived with his mother in her small home.

 

Scott must have been feeling enormous financial pressure when he walked into the Folger Library in the other Washington – D. C., America, with a copy of the first folio. The Folger Library has by far the most extensive collection of first folios in the world. Scott confidently announced that he was representing a Cuban family which, somehow or other, had come into possession of a first folio. He left the copy at the Folger to be evaluated and valued, Scott undoubtedly concluding the Folger would unobtrusively find him a buyer for his copy if not buy it themselves. If so, he guessed wrong. First folios don't just show up. There are extensive records of where the 232 copies known to exist are kept, and new ones don't appear anymore. Naturally, the Folger searched for any missing copies, and quickly did a comparison with the missing Durham first folio. Although Scott's copy had been defaced in several places to hide its identity, there were enough telltale signs remaining. The Folger recognized that Scott had not come in with a copy that had been lying unknown in Cuba for generations, but the one that had disappeared from Durham University a decade earlier.

 

While the ending of this story is not hard to guess, the trip to that inevitable conclusion was not so obvious. Scott played the role to all the world he must have played to Ms. Rios in Cuba. He continued to act like an international playboy, his personality as large as his income was not. He would arrive at court appearances in outlandish costumes, or make a dramatic appearance. One time he came in a horse-drawn carriage, a beautiful young “assistant” by his side. Another time he chose a stretch Humvee. He once came in a kilt, to emphasize his heritage and his name, “Scott.” In another court appearance he dressed in military fatigues, pointing to the Cuban connection by looking like an aging Che Guevara. Frequently, he would bring bottles of wine or other fine drink along. He would regale the press with protests of his innocence that were as entertaining as his appearances. There was never an absence of laughs when Raymond Scott arrived.

 

And then one day it all ended. Scott was convicted. He was never convicted of stealing Durham's first folio. However, he was convicted of possessing stolen goods and taking them out of the country. He was sentenced to eight years in prison. His high living was over. The fun and games had come to an end.

 

At first, it seemed like Scott was adjusting well to prison life. His history made him somewhat of a celebrity behind bars, and he joked about working in the prison library. However, like everything else in Scott's life, it was a charade. He became deeply depressed, talked about ending it all. Then, on March 14, 2012, he did. At the age of 55, two years into his eight-year sentence, Raymond Scott killed himself.

 

Author Mike Kelly conducted extensive interviews with Scott, both as he was awaiting trial and in prison after his conviction. Ever the publicity hound, Scott wanted his story told. He even went so far as to admitting to the crime for which he was never convicted to Kelly, at least almost. He told of a lonely man who sees a copy of a valuable book kept not in a vault but on a shelf, someone who loved the book both for what it was and as an asset, and who wanted to live life in full in places like Havana, London and Paris. However, he ended his tale by saying it was just a “fairy story, of course.” Scott's life was a fairy story, though this tale was probably the only true one he ever told. You can find Kelly's account of Scott's life on the usual bookselling websites. In a world of fictional characters, Raymond Scott was a Walter Mitty who actually succeeded, for a time, in living out his fantasies.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Leon TOLSTOÏ. <i>Anna Karenina.</i> Moscou, 1878. First and full edition of the Russian novel, in the author’s language.<br>Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Mark TWAIN. <i>Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer's comrade).</i> New York, 1885. First American edition.<br>Est. 5 000 / 6 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Walt WHITMAN. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> Brooklyn, New York, 1856. Second edition gathering 32 poems. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Karen BLIXEN. <i>Out of Africa.</i> Londres, 1937. First edition in the UK, before Danish translation and American release.<br>Est. 1 500 / 2 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Ernest HEMINGWAY. <i>A Farewell to Arms.</i> New York, 1929. First edition with $2.50 on the dust and A on the copyright page.<br>Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Ulysses.</i> Paris, Shakespeare and Company, 1922. First edition published by Sylvia Beach. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Dubliners.</i> Londres, 1914. First edition. Nice copy in publisher’s cardboard. Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Franz KAFKA. 8 novels in German first edition, published in München, Leipzig and Berlin 1916-1931. Est. from 300 / 400 to 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> David Herbert LAWRENCE. <i>Lady Chatterley's Lover.</i> Florence, 1928. Privately printed first edition. Est. 4 000 / 5 000 €
    John STEINBECK. <i>The Grapes of Wrath.</i> New York, 1939. First edition. Nice copy with $2.75 on the cover. Est. 1 000 / 1 200 €
  • <center><b>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Road West: The Steve Turner Collection of African Americana<br>February 20, 2020</b>
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Harriet Tubman Cabinet Card by H.S. Squyer, Auburn, NY, 1892. $10,000 to $15,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Scarce <i>Events of the Tulsa Disaster,</i> First Edition, 1922. $4,000 to $6,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Unpublished CDV of Frederick Douglass by Benjamin F. Smith, 1864. $3,000 to $5,000
    <center><b>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Road West: The Steve Turner Collection of African Americana<br>February 20, 2020</b>
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> California Imprint of <i>President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation</i> Broadside, 1864. $10,000 to $15,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> John C.H. Grabill Cabinet Card of Buffalo Soldier Wearing Buffalo Coat, ca 1886. $8,000 to $10,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Rare <i>What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking,</i> 2nd Cookbook Published by African American. $6,000 to $8,000
    <center><b>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Road West: The Steve Turner Collection of African Americana<br>February 20, 2020</b>
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Frederick Douglass Walking Stick, 1888. $3,000 to $5,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Only Known Slave Narrative Published Independently in California, <i>Life and Adventures of James Williams.</i> $2,000 to $4,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Rare First Edition of History of Black Literature, Abbé Grégoire <i>De La Littérature des Nègres</i>. $2,500 to $3,000
    <center><b>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Road West: The Steve Turner Collection of African Americana<br>February 20, 2020</b>
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> African American Soldier and Medal of Honor Winner Christian A. Fleetwood CDV, PLUS. $8,000 to $10,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Jack Johnson vs. Jim Jeffries Pennant, 1910 Reno, Nevada. $2,000 to $4,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Joe Gans Photograph at 1906 Goldfield, Nevada Fight by Percy Dana. $600 to $800
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Jane Austen, <i>Sense and Sensibility: A Novel, By a Lady,</i> 3 volumes, London, 1811. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Virginia Woolf, <i>Kew Gardens,</i> limited edition, signed by Woolf & Bell, London, 1927. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> <i>[Arabian Nights],</i> Calcutta II version, 4 volumes, Calcutta & London, 1839-1842. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Princess Diana, 6 ALS to <i>Harper’s Bazaar</i> editor, anticipating Christie’s sale of her dresses for charity, 1995-97. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Jane Austen, <i>Emma,</i> first edition, London, 1816. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Hirohito & Nagako, Emperor & Empress of Japan, 2 photographs signed, showing Nagako in kimono & obi bearing the imperial seal. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Princess Diana, 6 autograph letters signed to <i>Harper’s Bazaar</i> editor Elizabeth Tilberis, anticipating Christie’s announcement of a sale of her dresses for charity, 1995-97. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Sarojini Naidu, complete galley proof of <i>The Broken Wing</i> signed with several holograph pages & an autograph letter signed to writer Edmund Gosse, 1916. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Fernando Pessoa, <i>Mensagem,</i> first edition, presentation copy, signed & inscribed, Lisbon, 1934. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Graham Greene, <i>The Basement Room,</i> first edition, Greene’s personal copy, signed with annotations throughout, London, 1935. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Abraham Lincoln, partly-printed document signed, call for troops issued during America’s first national draft just days before the NYC draft riots, 1863. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b><br><i>Les Chansons de Bilitis</i> by Pierre Louÿs, illustrated by George Barbier & F.L. Schmied, Paris, 1922. $8,000 to $12,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Helvelius. Two Autograph Letters Signed to Francis Aston, Royal Society Secretary, noting his feud with Robert Hooke, 5 pp total, 1685. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Newton, Isaac. Autograph manuscript on God, 4 pp, c.1710, "In the beginning was the Word...."?$100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. First edition, first issue. Untrimmed copy in contemporary boards. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Lincoln, Abraham. Signed photograph, beardless portrait with Civil War provenance. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> IMPEACHMENT. Original engrossed copy of the first Andrew Johnson impeachment resolution vote. $120,000 to $180,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Mucha, Alphonse. 11 original pencil drawings for?<i>Andelicek z Baroku,</i> "Litte Baroque Angel," Prague, 1929. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Einstein, Albert. Annotated Galley Proofs for <i>The Meaning of Relativity.</i> 1921. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Silverstein, Shel. Original maquette for <i>The Giving Tree,</i> 34 original drawings. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Roth, Philip. Typed Manuscript with substantial autograph corrections for an unpublished sequel to <i>The Breast.</i> $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Taupin, Bernie. Autograph Manuscript, the original draft of lyrics for Elton John's "Candle in the Wind," 2 pp, 1973. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. <i>De Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Padua: 1643. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> CESALPINO, ANDREA. <i>Peripateticarum Quaestionum Libri Quinque.</i> Venice: 1571. $30,000 to $40,000.

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