Richard Kuhta, a librarian at the Folger Shakespeare Library has described the "heart dropping" moment he realised an ancient Shakespeare first edition he'd been asked to authenticate by a County Durham man was a priceless relic stolen a decade earlier.
Staff at the world renowned Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC called in the British Embassy, Durham Police and the FBI after being given the badly damaged book by Raymond Scott in 2008.
Scott, 53, of Manor Grange, Wingate, posed as a wealthy international playboy who claimed to have discovered the Shakespeare's first folio when holidaying in Cuba.
But experts at the library soon discovered the artifact, which had pages missing and its bindings and cover removed, was a unique 1623 first printing of the bard's collected works stolen in a raid at Durham University in December 1998.
Scott, who has denied theft, handling and transporting stolen goods, intended to sell the book at auction then share the money with friends in Cuba, a trial at Newcastle Crown Court heard. Experts estimated the first folio to be worth £1 million, even in its damaged state. They said in terms of its cultural value it was priceless.