Antiques dealer faces jail over Shakespeare folio

Fri Jul 9, 2010 10:05am EDT
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By Peter Griffiths

LONDON (Reuters) - An unemployed British antiques dealer with a taste for the high life faces jail after he was convicted on Friday of handling a stolen copy of a rare first collection of Shakespeare's plays.

Raymond Scott, 53, who drove a yellow Ferrari and posed as an international playboy despite having huge debts, walked into one of the world's leading Shakespeare research centers with the 17th century book.

Staff at the renowned Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C. recognized the valuable book and called the police, the British Embassy and the FBI.

Regarded as one of the most important printed works in the English language, less than 250 copies of the collection survive. They were first printed in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare's death.

A jury at Newcastle Crown Court in northeast England found Scott guilty of handling stolen goods and removing stolen property from Britain, the Press Association said. However, he was cleared of stealing the book from Durham University in 1988.

Judge Richard Lowden remanded Scott in custody and said: "There will in due time be an inevitable substantial custodial sentence."

During the trial, experts told the court the book had been damaged and had pages ripped out after its theft, cutting its value in half to about 1.5 million pounds ($2.28 million).

The 387-year-old collection was brought into court in a locked black strongbox before being taken out and presented to the jury on a pillow next to the witness box.   Continued...