modern notary stamp

According to State of Oregon Notary Guide:

In the old Roman Republic, notarii were public secretaries who were shorthand writers. As scribes became more and more common, they developed a service in the public marketplace to draw up legal documents and other written instruments. Wax seals were used as signatures on documents. Later, ribbons tied together multi-page documents, and wax seals on the knots showed that no one had tampered with the knots. Thus, we came to have notary seals.

Eventually, the state came to regulate and commission these scribes. Witnesses to the drafting of their documents came to be required. Notaries, still in the public marketplace, evolved into both drafters and witnesses to these writings. As notarii became essential to commerce and law, royalty found the need to commission and employ them for drawing up and countersigning documents. By the Middle Ages, notaries had to undergo formal training and examinations. Gradually, the government took over the sole appointment of notaries, giving them public officer status.

In Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin American countries, notaries retain many of their attorney-like powers. In the United States, however, notaries are most important for merely witnessing documents drafted by someone else. This disparity in notary authority is the reason Oregon has a law against advertising as a “Notario Publico”, which conveys to Spanish-speaking individuals vastly different powers than notaries have in this state. …[T]he duties and responsibilities of a notary public vary greatly from state to state.

Click below to view the State of Oregon Notary Guide

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