History Box - Makers and suppliers of high quality reproduction wax seals from centuries past
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History Box - Makers and suppliers of high quality reproduction wax seals from centuries past


AN INTRODUCTION TO SEALS

The earliest seals date back to ancient history and were used by the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians and Romans in particular. Many of these early seals were used to seal such items as wine amphorae.

There is little evidence to suggest the practice of sealing documents in Europe appeared before the 7th century.

One of the earliest users of a seal in England was Coenwulf, King of Mercia.
The first official use of a seal by an English monarch can be said to be Edward the Confessor 1042-1066, although the only complete example is now thought to be a forgery.

Although the seal was in general use in early Medieval Europe, it was not in common use in England until the reign of Henry II.

The chief purpose of seals in Europe was to authenticate. They were the equivalent of the modern signature, at a time when the majority of the people could not read or write.

As well as Royal seals, they became more widely used by many other groups – Barons, Feudal Lords, Ecclesiastical bodies, Monastic houses as well as civic corporations, Universities and merchants.

The act of sealing documents had now become common, although it still carried a great deal of importance. Edward III passed a law stating that forging of the Great Seal was classed as treason, a law that still stands today.

By the 19th century, the official practice of sealing had become restricted to special occasions such as Royal Warrants and Marriages.

By now the main use of a personal seal was to secure letters, which eventually died out with the introduction of gummed envelopes from 1840’s onwards.