Precious stolen Shakespeare manuscript returns to Durham

Durham University librarian Jon Percell with the original Shakespeare manuscript that had been stolen from the library and is now back on display.

Durham University librarian Jon Percell with the original Shakespeare manuscript that had been stolen from the library and is now back on display.

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ONE of the North East’s most important historical artefacts is back on display by popular demand.

The First Folio of Shakespeare plays hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons when it was stolen from Durham University’s Palace Green Library in 1998.

Durham University Librarian Jon Percell with the original Shakespeare manuscript that had been stolen from the Library, is now back on display.

Durham University Librarian Jon Percell with the original Shakespeare manuscript that had been stolen from the Library, is now back on display.

Experts had feared it was lost forever but it was recovered 10 years later when it was taken into the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC.

Staff were asked to identify and authenticate the book, which had been mutilated in a bid to hide the truth about its origins.

A Newcastle Crown Court jury last year cleared 53-year-old Raymond Scott of stealing the book but found him guilty of handling stolen goods and removing criminal property from the UK and he was given an eight-year prison sentence. Scott has launched an appeal against his convictions.

The First Folio went on display when Durham University’s Wolfson Gallery opened in January this year. Now, the exhibition telling the remarkable story of its theft and recovery is back “by popular demand”.

“Like Shakespeare himself, this book is a national treasure, giving a rare and beautiful snapshot of Britain’s incredible literary heritage,” said Bill Bryson, chancellor of Durham University and exhibition guest curator.

Published in 1623, the First Folio included 36 of Shakespeare’s plays and helped found his reputation as the greatest dramatist in the English language and rise to become one of the most important figures in world literature.

Dr Sheila Hingley, head of heritage collections at Durham University, said: “As a book, the Shakespeare First Folio is an iconic example of Western printing.

“Along with its near contemporary, the King James Bible, it has become a cornerstone of English literature.

“In the English-speaking world it has grown to symbolise our culture. On the world stage it equals any printed work as the physical embodiment of the human experience.”

The Shakespeare First Folio Spotlight exhibition runs until September 11. It is part of the wider Treasures of Durham University exhibition at The Wolfson Gallery, Palace Green Library.

For further details, including admission times and entrance prices, e-mail pg.library@durham.ac.uk; call 334 2972; or visit {http://www.dur.ac.uk/library/asc/exhibitions/treasures/,www.dur.ac.uk/library/asc/exhibitions/treasures/Click here to visit the library website}