AN antiques collector arrested over the theft of a 400-yearold Shakespeare book worth £15m has launched a legal fight to get it back.

Raymond Scott is demanding Professor Christopher Higgins, vice-chancellor of Durham University, hand over the Shakespeare first folio so he can prove it is not a copy stolen from the university library ten years ago.

Mr Scott, 51, filed the claim at Durham County Court yesterday.

After obtaining the paperwork, he walked the few hundred yards to the university’s headquarters, at Old Shire Hall, in an attempt to serve the papers on Prof Higgins in person.

However, he was unable to meet the vice-chancellor and the claim will be now be sent by post.

The Shakespeare First Folio has been described as the most important printed work in the English language.

After the Durham copy was stolen from the University Library in December 1998, experts feared it lost forever.

However, when Mr Scott presented a Shakespeare book to the Folger Shakespeare Library, in Washington DC, in the US, in June, some concluded the missing treasure had resurfaced. He was arrested at his home, in Washington, Wearside, a few weeks later and is due to answer bail next month.

He insists his book – which he calls the Cuban copy – is not the stolen volume.

Yesterday, Mr Scott said: “I believe I have legal title to it. I therefore resolved as early as possible to go to Durham County Court to issue a summons, so that Durham University will have to produce the book in court, and I will be able to demonstrate, I believe, that the book is in fact not theirs.”

Prof Higgins will have 14 days to respond to Mr Scott’s claim.

Last night, a Durham University spokesman said that any documents would be dealt with in the appropriate manner but nothing had yet been received.

A Durham Police spokesman said: "As far as we are concerned. the folio believed to have been stolen from Durham University ten years ago was brought from America to the North-East at the weekend.

"It remains under lock and key and continues to be the subject of a criminal investigation."

Mr Scott said that although he hoped he would not face charges, he would relish his day in court and would plead "very much not guilty".