Before we can talk about authentication in detail, we have to learn about notaries. You might have
read or heard of this word before. Many people believe that a notary notarizes documents.
However, this is not true. A document is a piece of paper that has no significance on its own. It needs
sponsors to obtain legitimacy. Think of a bill that has been tabled in the United States Congress. The
bill is a lengthy piece of comprehensive documentation that goes through lengthy congressional
procedures but for it to become law, the President must sign it. If the President does not, the bill has
no regulatory value.
In the same way, any document that is intended to have any significance must have signatories. One
problem with signatures is that almost all of them are done in person. Another problem is that they
can be forged. This is where notaries come in.
In ancient Roman times, very few people could write and read. This made a recording for most
people impossible. People took their matters to a state-appointed official known as a notorious to
write documents for them. They also entrusted the official to keep their documents for safekeeping.
With time, as reading and writing became relatively more common, there arose a need for the
authenticity of documents. People again looked to the state and different states produced different
methods to maintain the authenticity of documents. This included wax seals as well as woven
ribbons. These methods set authenticated documents apart visually and also maintained their
authenticity as seals were difficult to produce. This became the basis of modern notary seals as well
as certificates issued by notaries today.
As trade expanded to the Americas, notaries increased in demand due to the vast distance over
which trading was taking place. People with high moral and social standing began being appointed as
notaries. These notaries performed the same tasks as their Roman peers from centuries ago.
Fast-forwarding to the present day, we find that there are three main types of notaries that exist
worldwide. All of these are regulated by distinct and separate systems that are mainly separated by
geographic boundaries. These are the Common Law Notary System for the English-speaking
countries of the world, the Civil Law Notary System for the Latin counties, and the Notary System of
the United States of America.