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A Notaries’ Notebook?: Assessing the Legal, Notarial, and Archival Practices of Medieval Egyptian Notaries
It comes as no surprise that the people who drew up legal documents in the medieval Islamic world – the notaries – were skilled and knowledgeable legal practitioners, as well as being handy with a pen. Most of our knowledge of their work and profession comes from notary manuals and the notes they left on the scanty extant documents. That latter source, however, offers more than what meets the eye. Using notarial notes in Geniza documents, and especially a fragment of a notarial record book, this paper demonstrates that the work of notaries, and therefore aspects of the legal system more broadly, involved social and institutional relationships and practices that functioned beyond the purview of manuals and traditional legal authorities like judges. The features of the record book fragment, especially evidence of its use within a ledger-like daftar, and the multiple notaries’ atypical signatures, suggest that the documents preserved on the fragment were copies made for a “short-term archive.” Such archives illuminate the relationships between notaries and the lay parties, as well as document production and archiving during legal transactions. The material evidence, as well as textual clues found within the record fragment, are utilized to paint a picture of the social historical role of notaries and reassess their role within the medieval Islamic legal system
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