History Mystery: The case of the oddly-shaped document

I recently encountered this mysterious item in The Filson's manuscript collection and was utterly stumped as to what it could be.  This beguiling manuscript serves a specific function and was deliberately created.  Without reading the text of the manuscript, do you have any idea what the function of this item may be?  Why is the parchment oddly shaped?

The first person to give the correct answer will win an item from the Filson’s bookstore.

Good luck!

history mystery

Filson Historical

3 comments on “History Mystery: The case of the oddly-shaped document

  1. Noah

    It’s an indenture. Originally, the two parties to the indenture each received a copy of the document. Both copies were drawn up on the same piece of parchment and then the parchment was cut in some irregular way (a line that is occasionally “indented”) to separate the copies. The shape of the cut is unique to each document so that when the two copies are rejoined they make a perfect fit, proving that they are both legitimate copies of the same document.

    What do I win?…

    1. admin

      That’s absolutely correct, Noah!
      Indentures were used to create authentic duplicates for contracts and to prevent forgeries. The Filson has a number of beautiful historic indentures from the 16th and 17th centuries (indentures became increasingly obsolete after the 17th century). Send me your address (poindexter@filsonhistorical.org) and start checking your mailbox everyday for your prize from the Filson bookstore!!!

  2. John

    Noah beat me to the punch! Do you play this game monthly?


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