1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Indenture

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INDENTURE (through O. Fr. endenture from a legal Latin term indentura, indentare, to cut into teeth, to give a jagged edge, in modum dentium, like teeth), a law term for a special form of deed executed between two or more parties, and having counterparts or copies equal to the number of parties. These copies were all drawn on one piece of vellum or paper divided by a toothed or “indented” line. The copies when separated along this waved line could then be identified as “tallies” when brought together. Deeds executed by one party only had a smooth or “polled” edge, whence the name “deed poll.” By the Real Property Act 1845, § 5, all deeds purporting to be “indentures” have the effect of an “indenture,” even though the indented line be absent. The name “chirograph” (Gr. χεὶρ, hand, γράφειν, to write) was also early applied to such a form of deed, and the word itself was often written along the indented line (see further Deed and Diplomatic). The term “indenture” is now used generally of any sealed agreement between two or more parties, and specifically of a contract of apprenticeship, whence the phrase “to take up one’s indentures,” on completion of the term, and also of a contract by labourers to serve in a foreign country or colony (see Coolie).