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The Anatomy of a Seal: the Language

John de Throkeneforde seal

All the seals in this exhibition are 'pendent' - that is, they are attached to the document by a 'tag' or parchment 'tongue' that hangs from it. Sometimes seals are 'applied' to documents instead: this is when they are impressed directly onto the paper or parchment.

Seal design usually includes an image and a 'legend'. The legend is the text that can be seen - often heavily abbreviated - around the seal. The Latin 'sigillum' meaning seal, is sometimes abbreviated to 'S'. 'Sigillography' is the name given to the study of seals.

The seal impression is created by a 'matrix'. Smaller ones might take the form of a ring, while larger ones had a handle and could be carried. The matrix was usually made of metal, and would wear down over time.


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