Book dealer jailed for handling stolen tome

An unemployed book dealer who paraded as a wealthy playboy was sentenced Monday to eight years in prison for possessing a stolen first edition of Shakespeare’s plays, a rare volume described as a “quintessentially English treasure.”

LONDON — An unemployed book dealer who paraded as a wealthy playboy was sentenced Monday to eight years in prison for possessing a stolen first edition of Shakespeare’s plays, a rare volume described as a “quintessentially English treasure.”

Last month, a jury cleared Raymond Scott, 53, of stealing the First Folio but found him guilty of handling stolen goods and removing stolen property from Britain.

Scott was arrested after he took the 1623 volume to the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. two years ago and asked to have it authenticated. Experts there alerted police, who say the folio was stolen from a display case at Durham University in northern England in 1998.

Scott claimed he had found the volume in Cuba and denied all charges.

In passing sentence, Judge Richard Lowden said Scott had tried to use the book to “fund an extremely ludicrous playboy lifestyle” and to impress a woman he had met in Cuba. The judge said Scott was “to some extent a fantasist” but was not suffering from a mental disorder.

Prosecutors said the flamboyant collector drove a yellow Ferrari and posed as an international playboy despite living with his elderly mother on welfare benefits and amassing huge credit-card debts.

Durham chief prosecutor Chris Enzor welcomed the sentence, calling Scott “a dishonest con man and serial thief who found himself in possession of a national treasure.”

The First Folio was published seven years after William Shakespeare’s death and was the first collected edition of his plays. Some 750 copies were printed, and about a third have survived, though most are incomplete.

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