Chirograph (Cyrograph)

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The Chirograph was a legal document held between two parties and authenticated. Written on a piece of vellum or parchment, a chirograph would be used for various medieval, papal or notarial document which was then irregularly cut apart and divided among the parties.

History and Use

“The chirograph supposedly had its origins in Anglo-Saxon England, where the practice of using notaries to ratify legal documents was not continued generally after the Roman era.” The written text on the chirograph was copied twice on the same sheet of vellum or parchment. Written in between the two sections was usually the word “cirographum,” which was then cut apart. Usually, the cut was wavy or irregular in order to avoid forged copies. When the two copies were brought together, it would prove the document authentic and free for ratification between the two parties.


"Written in round court-hand, with heavy main-strokes; the strokes below the line drawn out into a point or a hair-line; those above, looped or turned over to the right. In line 2 a transposition of words is indicated by double oblique strokes" (Bond).

Multiple Meanings

The roots of chirography “really only means a hand-written document – from the Greek, xeiro=hand, and graphos-writing” (Stoller).

Various Uses

Medieval Documents

Papal Documents

Notarial documents

Taking Care of Business

Works Cited

  • [[ ]], Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts and their Heritage"