Seal

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps
 
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Page 38

The Great Seal of King Edward III of England. Often used as a signature or imprimatur, seals once had a practical importance. Today, many government offices have seals, though they are mainly decorative in function.

BRITISH MUSEUM COLLECTION

To close records by any type of fastening that must be broken before access can be obtained. An impression upon wax, wafer, or some other substance capable of being impressed.

The use of seals began at a time when writing was not common, but when every person of means possessed a coat-of-arms or other distinctive device. Great significance was attached to the use of seals as a means of distinguishing persons. With the spread of education, the signature on an instrument became more important than the seal, and seals lost their former dignity and importance.

Modern judicial decisions minimize or eliminate the distinctions between sealed and unsealed instruments, and most statutes have abolished the use of seals. Other statutes abolishing the use of private seals do not make sealed instruments unlawful, but merely render the seals ineffective. In jurisdictions that still recognize the use of seals, the seal can assume the form of a wax impression, an impression made on paper, or a gummed sticker attached to the document. The letters L.S., an abbreviation for the Latin phrase locus sigilli, meaning "the place of the seal," can also be used in place of a material seal, as can the word seal or a statement to the effect that the document is to take effect as a sealed instrument.

Seals are currently used for authenticating documents, such as birth and marriage records and deeds to real property. They are also used to...

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