Signets in Persia and England

The importance of signet rings in Persia and England, their use as signatures for letters and bills, and the danger in losing them

In Persia, at the present day, letters are seldom written and never signed by the person who sends them; and it will thus appear that the authenticity of all orders and communications, and even of a merchant's bills, depends wholly on an impression from his seal-ring. This makes the occupation of a seal-cutter one of as much trust and danger as it seems to have been in Egypt. Such a person is obliged to keep a register of every ring-seal he makes; and if one be lost or stolen from the party for whom it was cut, his life would answer for making another exactly like it. The loss of a signet-ring is considered a serious calamity; and the alarm which an Oriental exhibits when his signet is missing, can only be understood by a reference to these circumstances, as the seal-cutter is always obliged to alter the real date at which the seal was cut. The only resource of a person who has lost his seal is to have another made with a new date, and to write to his correspondents to inform them that all accounts, contracts and communications to which his former signet is affixed are null from the day on which it was lost.

Importance has been given to signets in England. This was at a time when the schoolmaster had not made many penmen. "And how great a regard was had to seals," says Collins, in his Baronage, "appears from these testimonies; the Charter of King Henry I. to the Abbey of Evesham, being exhibited to King Henry III. and the seal being cloven in sunder, the King forthwith caused it to be confirmed," etc., etc.; "and in 13 Ed. III., when, by misfortune, a deed, then showed in the Chancery, was severed from the seal, in the presence of the Lord Chancellor and other noble persons, command was not only given for the affixing it again thereto, but an exemplification was made thereof under the Great Seal of England, with the recital of the premises. And the counterfeiting of another man's seal was anciently punished with transportation, as appears from this record in the reign of King John," etc., etc. "It is also as remarkable that in 9 H. III. c. c. marks damages were recovered by Sir Ralph de Crophall, Knight, against Henry de Grendon and William de Grendon for forcibly breaking a seal from a deed. Also so tender was every man in those times of his seal, that if he had accidentally lost it, care was taken to publish the same, lest another might make use of it to his detriment, as is manifested in the case of Benedict de Hogham," etc. "Also not much unlike to this is that of Henry de Perpount, a person of great quality, (ancestor of his Grace the Duke of Kingston,) who, on Monday, in the Octaves of St. Michael, 8 Ed. I., came into the Chancery at Lincoln and publicly declared, that he missed his seal; and protested, that if any instrument should be signed with that seal, for the time to come, it should be of no value or effect. Nor is that publication made by John de Greseley of Drakelow, in Com. Derb. 18 R. II., upon the loss of his seal, less considerable," etc., etc.

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