The office of Notary goes back to ancient Rome. The word ‘Notary’ comes from the system of marks or signs called ‘notae’ which were developed as shorthand around the time of Cicero. Practitioners of this method of writing were called ‘notarius’.
At first, notaries were just copiers or scribes. After time, however, the title of Notary was transferred to registrars or secretaries of the highest government officials. Notaries themselves became accepted as public officials. Their involvement in the preparation and execution of documents gave those documents credit and authenticity.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the office of Notary survived. By the medieval period, both the emperors of Germany and the Popes were appointing notaries. These operated without territorial restrictions.
In England, in 1279, the Archbishop of Canterbury was authorised by the Pope to appoint notaries. From then on, notaries became increasingly important in England and most particularly in matters concerning the relationship between Church and State.
In 1533, the King assumed the Pope’s power of appointing notaries and, as before, this was delegated to the Archbishops of Canterbury. A Court of Faculties was created, with the power of appointing and regulating notaries. It retains that role to the present day.
Today, UK Notaries are an essential part of the workings of international trade and industry, helping transactions between this country and businesses and individuals all over the world.