1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Deed

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DEED (in O. Eng. deâd, from the stem of the verb “to do”), that which is done, an act, doing; particularly, in law, a contract in writing, sealed and delivered by the party bound to the party intended to benefit. Contracts or obligations under seal are called in English law specialties, and down to 1869 they took precedence in payment over simple contracts, whether written or not. Writing, sealing and delivery are all essential to a deed. The signature of the party charged is not material, and the deed is not void for want of a date. Delivery, it is held, may be complete without the actual handing over of the deed; it is sufficient if the act of sealing were accompanied by words or acts signifying that the deed was intended to be presently binding; and delivery to a third person for the use of the party benefited will be sufficient. On the other hand, the deed may be handed over to a third person as an escrow,[1] in which case it will not take effect as a deed until certain conditions are performed. Such conditional delivery may be inferred from the circumstances attending the transaction, although the conditions be not expressed in words. A deed indented, or indenture (so called because written in counterparts on the same sheet of parchment, separated by cutting a wavy line between them so as to be identified by fitting the parts together), is between two or more parties who contract mutually. The actual indentation is not now necessary to an indenture. The deed-poll (with a polled or smooth-cut edge, not indented) is a deed in which one party binds himself without reference to any corresponding obligations undertaken by another party. See Contract.

  1. An Anglo-French law term meaning a “scroll” or strip of parchment, cognate with the English “shred.” The modern French écroue is used for the entry of a name on a prison register.