Tuesday, July 27, 2004

The Wonderful Seal

Picture if you will a tall, iron, screw-mounted press, larger than the duck presses in three-star French restaurants. This is black with gold handles on top and gold trim. It is over three feet tall.

There is one of those in the McCormack office building at One Ashburton Place on Beacon Hill in Boston. Its purpose is to emboss the state seal, to take a piece of gilded paper and turn it into a symbol of authority or in the case of a certification of solemnization, an official designation.

The seal when embossed thus appears as in my profile:

The certificate I got last year has this one it. When I paid my $25, and presented my picture ID and the letter from the governor granting my one-day designation, I got to wait in line while a thin, late middle-aged woman prepared the actual certificate. Her thinness, white skin and grey hair were significant because she was in pale contrast to the dark press, whose members where thicker than her arms. She seemed to wrestle with it and slowly win. She approached the press, placed the paper and gold sheet in it, and began screwing it down with one hand on each knob, contorting her mouth under the effort. It was an delightfully 18th Century image. The result was slightly irregular, higher on one side. The document was important enough to process by hand.

Lackaday, the new system seems to use pre-embossed seals stuck on the paper like so many gold stars for the good readers in the class.

The couple whose marriage I solemnize in August will be no less married because their version of the seal is mass produced. Yet...

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