Friday, July 18, 2008

an old book

Have you been following the press coverage about the copy of Shakespeare's First Folio that showed up at the Folger Library recently? The Washington Post rushed in to somewhat breathlessly cover the story when it first broke and followed up later with a personality piece on the man who brought it in. The NYT has been somewhat more restrained. While the British tabloids are loving it up:
- Cuban lover of Briton at centre of Shakespeare Folio probe tells of her shock at his arrest

- 'I'm innocent', says book dealer arrested over £15m Shakespeare ...
And the British press in general has had some fun with it:
- I want my book back arrested man says

- Experts examine mountain of books at Folio suspect's home

- FBI investigate Shakespeare theft drama
I particularly like this from the Sunderland Echo: My innocent role in Shakespeare drama, by Ross Robertson.

It's hard to know how serious to take this. The alleged perp is far from the usual type of obsessive, clinically depressed, and reclusive rare book thief. Ditto his alleged accomplice. The persons connected with the discovery and all the academics called upon to spout about its importance are clearly reveling in their pleasant moment in the public eye. I suppose the story will ravel in time though may not be news when it does.

It does interest me that the Folger has nothing on its web site about the incident, not even in is "press room" section.

Also, I'm interested in the role played by Garland Scott, Folger's press secretary. She appears to have done her job well, fronting for the org and keeping its employees from being pestered by the press. She was clearly a main source in the original WaPo account:
"It's come back after all this time, and there is an interesting tale to it," said Charlie Westberg, a spokesman for the Durham Constabulary. "That is what will make this a great movie one day," said Garland Scott, head of external relations for the Folger library. . . . When the mysterious man arrived at the Folger last month, he had a story to go with his book: He said the work was from a family library in Cuba, and he was representing the family. "From time to time, people have asked us to help them to figure out what a book might be," the Folger's Scott said. "On the other hand, usually those people have called or e-mailed beforehand. It's a little unusual to just show up." Librarian Richard Kuhta met the man and examined the book. "It's clear to Richard immediately that this is something important," Scott said. Kuhta asked the man if the library could keep the volume for further study, and the man agreed to leave it for two days. "Alarm bells" were going off in the minds of the library's staff, Scott said. "It's the first time a genuine First Folio has walked into our doors unannounced."
You can read about her :here and in this brief profile in a local weekly freepaper, the Hill Rag: A Capital Person: Garland Scott.

Finally, this all interests me because I've been working with a whole lot of books published in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. I've read, skimmed, and glanced at somewhat more than 600 so far, and thought myself a bit blasé about old printed books when the Folger discovery hit the news. A Shakespeare first folio, I have to say, is another thing altogether.

Also, I was stirred to pull this stuff together now on reading this nice piece in Slate today: Folioed Again!
Why Shakespeare is the world's worst stolen treasure, by Paul Collins.

Some photos from sources cited above:

Scott with alleged accomplice and her mom.

Raymond Scott, of course.

Police hauling stuff away from Scott's place.

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