Random Quote #65 topic: bierce-devil, The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce

SEAL, n. A mark impressed upon certain kinds of documents to attest
their authenticity and authority. Sometimes it is stamped upon wax,
and attached to the paper, sometimes into the paper itself. Sealing,
in this sense, is a survival of an ancient custom of inscribing
important papers with cabalistic words or signs to give them a magical
efficacy independent of the authority that they represent. In the
British museum are preserved many ancient papers, mostly of a
sacerdotal character, validated by necromantic pentagrams and other
devices, frequently initial letters of words to conjure with; and in
many instances these are attached in the same way that seals are
appended now. As nearly every reasonless and apparently meaningless
custom, rite or observance of modern times had origin in some remote
utility, it is pleasing to note an example of ancient nonsense
evolving in the process of ages into something really useful. Our
word "sincere" is derived from _sine cero_, without wax, but the
learned are not in agreement as to whether this refers to the absence
of the cabalistic signs, or to that of the wax with which letters were
formerly closed from public scrutiny. Either view of the matter will
serve one in immediate need of an hypothesis. The initials L.S.,
commonly appended to signatures of legal documents, mean _locum
sigillis_, the place of the seal, although the seal is no longer used

-- an admirable example of conservatism distinguishing Man from the
beasts that perish. The words _locum sigillis_ are humbly suggested
as a suitable motto for the Pribyloff Islands whenever they shall take
their place as a sovereign State of the American Union.


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