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Collectable Ephemera - Copperplate Manuscript Legal Documents

Updated on September 2, 2018
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I love collecting things, especially figurines, which makes my home look interesting or somewhat cluttered, depending on your viewpoint.

This is my Collection of Antique and Vintage Manuscript Title Deeds - Lawyers and Historians Will Love Them

As an English solicitor (attorney to our friends across the ocean), working in the field of conveyancing (land transactions), I have been handling and working with these exquisitel copperplate manuscript title deeds and documents for forty years. Here are lots of photographs for you to enjoy.

The older deeds were inscribed by hand in pen and ink, on parchment paper, and the more recent ones on judicature paper (called "judi" in the solicitors' office).

An Indenture


Parchment documents have a unique silky feel - they are slightly waxy and shiny in texture

I can't help stroking them when I handle them. The deeds also have a distinctive musty but very pleasant smell and I find myself almost unwittingly bringing them up to my nose to have a sniff.

Inscribing in Copperplate Manuscript was a skill for which people would have to train as apprentices

The Manuscript Writers were called Scriveners

Even if you have actually heard of a scrivener, did you ever wonder what a scrivener was?

According to Wikipedia, "A scrivener (or scribe) was traditionally a person who could read and write. This usually indicated secretarial and administrative duties such as dictation and keeping business, judicial, and history records for kings, nobles, temples, and cities. Scriveners later developed into public servants, accountants, lawyers and petition writers, etc."

The Scriveners


The Scriveners - Buy This at

Scriveners are still commonly seen in countries with low literacy, where sciveners help people by writing letters and completing forms for them. And there are still Scrivener Notaries, who perform important official functions such as notarising or authenticating legal documents.

Funnily enough, I used to perform scrivening duties myself, as a child (without knowing the official terminology), because I often used to write letters for my Grandmother, who had poor sight and hearing. I quite enjoyed it, but was certainly not very skilled - my handwriting has always been abominable, and when I was at school I was always getting work sent back because it was ink-splattered and messy.

A Conveyance


An assignment of Lease


An Indenture with Orange Seals Signifying that Stamp Duty Tax Has Been Paid


A Conveyance


A Mortgage


A Lease


A Counterpart Lease 1906


Look closely at the manuscript deed below - You will see that there is no punctuation or spaces at the end of lines and between paragraphs



The reason for omitting punctuation and leaving no blank spaces at the end of lines or between paragraphs was to avoid the fraudulent insertion of words or punctuation which might change the meaning or give a benefit someone which was not intended by one or all of the signatories (people signing the document).

Adding punctuation in the wrong place can also change the meaning and lead to misinterpretation. An example is the book title "Eats Shoots and Leaves", describing a Panda. It means that the panda's food is shoots and leaves. It does not mean that the panda eats, shoots and then leaves.

Take the Poll Below About Manuscript Legal Documents -

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Did you know that manuscript legal documents did not have any punctuation and the reason for that?

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An excellent video about Calligraphy Gothic/Chancery

Lawyers and anyone connected with the law would love this T-Shirt about Divorce:

The wording can be personalized or even removed by you, and you can get the same design on a mug, a bumper sticker, or various other things

Divorce - It Wasn't Meant to End Like This T-shirt


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