The practice of a notary public dates back to ancient Roman times when few people learned to read and write. A "notarius" was appointed as a public official to create written documents of agreement or wills and to hold them for safekeeping.
Wax seals with individualized engravings or symbols were used as signatures at the end of written agreements. In later centuries, ribbons were woven into holes placed in the margin of multiple page documents to tie the pages together. Wax seals were placed over the knots to ensure no pages were added nor removed. This was the birth of the notary seal and certificate.
In Colonial America, persons of high moral character were appointed as public notaries to certify and keep documents safe.
It is remarkable that in our age of sophisticated technology, the notary practice still includes the use of a seal and signature of the notary. Little has changed over the centuries. Perhaps it evidences the high level of security proper notarizations provide.
Every day millions of documents are prepared, signed and submitted for processing or filing for countless transactions: real estate deeds, automobile titles, loan applications, buy/sell agreements, applications for visas or college admission, credit applications, business licenses, service contracts and thousands more. Billions of dollars are at stake in these transactions. Reliance on signatures poses growing risks and the incidence of fraud by forgery or false identification continues to increase in our country. Proof of authenticity of signatures on business or legal records is increasingly important for protection against fraud.
Notarization of signatures is often essential to the "due diligence" and "standard of care" of the parties to ensure the integrity of the documents. By law, numerous transactions require notarized signatures.