Notary seals

        The notary fund kept in the State Archive of Reggio Emilia, constituting one of the most conspicuous entities, also includes a series of seals.

        The chronological extension of the collection (1372-1896) makes it an irreplaceable tool for any research and for any type of historical investigation. Notarial seals, however, had so far remained somewhat neglected, partly because they constitute an indirect source so to speak.

        The series consists of 258 pieces belonging to notaries who drawn up in the period 1645-1859; the places of residence of professionals are different: Reggio mostly, Montecchio, Scandiano, Guastalla and Bassa Reggiana more rarely, late comes the Mountain and to a very small extent Novellara.

        The series of seals, contrary to what would have been believed, was not poured together with the acts of the notaries of reference but only a few years later and en bloc in 1912.

        The entire series is actually composed of 266 pieces, eight more than those delivered by the Notary Archive: no. 259 is due to a gift from the Reggian canon Giovanni Saccani of 26 September 1912, the others to subsequent gifts and purchases of the Institute.

        One could almost say that the seal is the notary himself: in a few centimeters of metal are enclosed centuries of history, legal elaboration, social changes, a complicated path that leads to the point where a paper, only because written according to certain forms and bearing the imprint of a matrix that is proper only to that notary, is immediately recognized the publica fides, but if the same original paper was devoid of the signum would lose all its value. And to signify the importance of the notarial seal, it is remembered that it was canceled with one or more file marks (technically defeated) when its owner ceased for any reason from service.

        It can be said that the notarial seal does not characterize its owner only from the professional point of view, but often connotes it also from the personal side. The subject engraved on the matrix derives from a choice of the notary and in some way overshadows his personality because he from then on professionally and therefore socially will be identified and qualified by that design.

        The end of the seal as a free representation of themselves came with the Napoleonic decree of June 17, 1806, n. 109 Regulation on the notary: The sign of the Tabellionato is a metal mould, with which the notary marks and authenticates the acts. This represents the arms of the Kingdom, and below an arbitrary figure, and has the initial letters of the first name, surname of the notary, of his qualification as a notary, and the name of the department of his residence.».

        The most obvious consequence of this phenomenon is the plurality of matrices for each notary: those who have drawn up from the years of the Ancien Régime up to the Napoleonic era have the seal they had personally chosen plus the "state" seal from 1807 onwards; of course, if the professional activity continued even during the Restoration, the notary also has a third seal: the Este seal.

        An aspect that can be investigated even without the identification of the seal with its owner is certainly the iconological one. In some cases it is in the presence of real signa tabellionis still linked to an older tradition; well represented are also the seals with the talking familiar arms. Other notaries reproduce, at times with some variation, the family coat of arms, especially if illustrious or of ancient notarial lineage.

        Of course there is a whole group of matrices whose subjects appear to have been determined only by the taste and sensitivity of the notary, and in some cases the result is remarkable for finesse and elegance of engraving.

Catalogo dei Sigilli notarili


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