Rare Book Monthly
Articles - September - 2009 Issue
Shakespearean Suspect Arrives at Court in His Carriage
By Michael Stillman
Raymond Scott is no common thief. Whether he is a most uncommon one, time will tell, but the man accused of stealing a Shakespeare First Folio valued at several million dollars from England's Durham University is certainly no ordinary suspect. Scott topped his previous arrival to a court hearing in a stretch limo by arriving in a horse-drawn carriage, he and his "research assistant," Claire Smith, sipping from a bottle of Drambuie. A bagpipe player led the two-horse carriage, while a driver and bodyguard named "Tiny" sat up front. The 52-year-old Scott, and his attractive 29-year-old assistant, rode in back. Scott and Smith further played up his Scottish connection by wearing kilts and various other very Scotch looking plaid accessories.
Scott stated that he had considered arriving in a toga, like Julius Caesar, in honor of the columns at the Durham courthouse, "but of course he gets a knife between the blades." What's more, "I don't look all that nice in a toga," and "it was just a bugger trying to find a chariot." Scott concluded his entrance to the court by reciting lines from MacBeth and singing "My Way" with a Frank Sinatra tribute singer.
Scott explained his dramatic arrival by announcing, "It's a rather dull grey world, all in all, and I like to add a little bit of color (or, being British, he probably said "colour"). Even if I had been accused of stealing a tin of corned beef from Tesco's, I'd arrive in such fashion."
Raymond Scott was arrested a year ago after bringing a Shakespeare First Folio to the Folger Library in Washington, D.C., for authentication. Scott claimed to have received it from a Cuban girlfriend whose family was unable to take it out of the country because of that nation's travel restrictions. The Folger, as one might expect, not only proceeded to authenticate the copy, but run it past their list of missing copies of this item. What their experts concluded was that this was the copy which had been stolen from Durham University about a decade earlier. Suspicions about Scott were only increased by the fact that, coincidentally or not, Scott lives in rural England only a dozen miles from Durham University, and it is not clear how, with apparently limited legitimate income and personal wealth, he is able to live a fairly lavish lifestyle. Nonetheless, Scott has steadfastly maintained his innocence, providing lots of entertaining press along the way.
No official pleas were entered at the court hearing though Scott answered his identity questions with a properly Scottish "aye." He was ordered to return in October for official pleas but the trial itself will not be held until next summer. The prosecution needs to gather evidence from the U.S. and Cuba as well as Durham. Meanwhile, we can expect the eccentric book collector from County Durham to provide us with more comic relief worthy of Shakespeare.