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Chirogrăphum

χειρόγραφον). A word which meant first, as its derivation implies, a hand writing or autograph. In this, its simple sense, χείρ in Greek and manus in Latin are often substituted for it.

Like similar words in all languages, it acquired several technical senses. From its first meaning was easily derived that of a signature to a will or other instrument, especially a note of hand given by a debtor to his creditor. In this latter case it did not constitute the legal obligation (for the debt might be proved in some other way); it was only a proof of the obligation.

According to Asconius (in Verr. iii. 36), chirographum, in the sense of a promissory note, was distinguished from syngrapha; the former was always given for money actually lent, the latter might be a mere sham agreement to pay a debt which had never been actually incurred. The chirographum was kept by the creditor, and had only the debtor's signature; the syngrapha, on the contrary, was signed and kept by both parties. See Cautio; Falsum.

In the Latin of the Middle Ages, chirographum was used to signify tribute collected under the sign-manual of a person in authority, similar to the briefs and benevolences of former times in Great Britain. It was also used, till comparatively recent times, in the English law for an indenture. Duplicates of deeds were written on one piece of parchment, with the word chirographum between them, which was cut in two in a straight or wavy line, and the parts given to the care of the persons concerned. By the canonists, as Blackstone remarks, the word syngrapha or syngraphus was employed in the same way, and hence gave its name to these kinds of writing.

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