Developing a Notary's Emblem

posted Oct 19, 2016, 4:15 PM by Claire Knudsen-Latta   [ updated Oct 26, 2016, 4:04 PM ]
Notaries played an important role in Medieval Europe.  The medieval office of the Notary grew out of the Imperial Roman office.  During the period between the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of the great medieval states, the office survived largely in Italy and Spain, where Roman influence had been strongest.  In northern Europe, Notaries enjoyed a brief revival under Charlemagne (and his beautiful bureaucracy) but didn't really make a comeback until the twelfth century.  Throughout their usage, Notaries were appointed by either royal or apostolic courts, typically after some sort of examination to ensure they had the appropriate qualifications.  More information on Notaries in England can be found in the article "Notaries Public in England in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries" by Patrick Zutshi (attached below as 17 zutshi.pdf).

A Notary's attestation and emblem on a document served to proclaim the correctness and veracity of a given document. The attestation typically followed this form: 
"And I William de Somerdeby, clerk, by the authority of the Holy See, aforesaid public notary, being actually present, have written and published the aforesaid appeal and placed my accustomed sign upon it, being asked to do so." 
(from an Appeal to the Holy See of 1281 in the collection of Rob Schäfer, translation here.

In the SCA, an attestation might take the following form: 
"And I, Cynehild Cynesigesdohtor, clerk, by the authority of the West Kingdom Company of Scriveners and Limners, have written the aforesaid Award of Arms and, knowing that it is true and correct, placed my accustomed sign upon it, being asked to do so."

The emblem, sometimes called the signum or signum manuale, was the Notary's personal mark, and was intended to be distinct of every other notary.  Creating your own emblem is fairly simple.

First, review some existing emblems to determine what an emblem typically looked like (see the article "Les seings manuels des notaires dans le diocèse de Sion, de l'apparition du notariat public jusqu'en 1350" by Chantai Ammann-Doubliez, attached below, for some examples).

Second, like with your arms, consider what drawing your emblem will be like in the real world.  If you're like me (i.e. not a draw-y artist), you'll want a fairly simple emblem that you can replicate with a variety of pens. 

Third, draw up a few draft emblems.  Elements to consider adding include: a stepped base, a cross, a square or diamond, dots, little spiky things coming off the sides, etc. Decide which draft you like and refine it until it's both easy to draw and pleasing to your eye.

Fourth, congratulate yourself, you've done the thing!  Now go forth and attach your attestation and emblem to the bottom of document-style scrolls!
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Claire Knudsen-Latta,
Oct 19, 2016, 4:15 PM
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Claire Knudsen-Latta,
Oct 19, 2016, 4:15 PM