n. ~ 1. A die or stamp with a design used to make an impression in wax or on paper. - 2. A piece of wax, lead, or other material bearing a design from a die or stamp that serves as a sign of authenticity. - 3. A design impressed into paper from a die or stamp that serves as a sign of authenticity. - 4. A substance that must be broken before opening a container, used to detect unauthorized access.
- v. ~ 5. To restrict access to, especially of court records. - 6. To authenticate or execute a document by marking with a design (seal3).
The design in a seal2, 3 may be either raised or impressed.
†(CJS, Records §11) A scroll which the clerk puts on a record to the side of the signatures of the parties to the instrument is a proper representation of a corporate seal2, 3.
†(Duranti 1998, p. 138–139) The most important extrinsic element of medieval documents, and the least common and relevant in contemporary documents, is the seal2. Examining seals, diplomatists focus their attention on the material they are made of, their shape, size, typology (as it related to the figure in the impression: heraldic type, equestrian, monumental, hagiographic, majestic, etc.), legend or inscription (which runs clockwise around the central figure along the edge of the seal, starting from the top), and the method of affixing them (seals may be hanging or adherent). The analysis of these components is directed to ascertaining the degree of authority and solemnity of a document, its provenance and function, and its authenticity.