Spanish laws, such as the Nueva Recopilación (1567) and the Novísima Recopilación (1805) for the Castilian Figure 7-3.pngareas of the Iberian Peninusla, as well as the Leyes de Indias (1573) for the colonies, followed the Siete Partidas[1] in establishing basic requirements forexcribanos: they needed to be over twenty-five years of age; not a clergyman; a Christian; circumspect; of good understanding; able to write; and a vecino (legally domiciled resident) of the town where appointed. As with many other areas of Spanish life, the Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand and Isabel, as well as their successors, attempted to impose further order on the notarial system. All notaries had to receive royal appointment, except those serving in towns ruled by nobility where the ruling noble made the appointment. Before an appointment was granted, an examination was supposed to be taken before the Cámara del Consejo de Castilla (Exchequer of the Council of Castille). Escribanos reales (Royal Notaries) were required to have multi-year apprenticeships.[2] After the year 1609, the crown imposed a requirement of two years of experience in drafting notarial documents before candidates for public notary could take their examination.[3]

In spite of such restrictions, a certain amount of disorder remained within the notarial system. Prior to 1609 the protocolos (bound register volumes) were considered the property of theescribano and upon his death he could will them to anyone, although they most often went to his oldest son. If, however, the heir was unable to pass the examination, meet all the other qualifications and pay the required fee to the crown, the new apprentice who replaced him was frequently not given access to the former notary's books. Frequent attempts were made by the Spanish kings to encourage the preservation of the protocolos (register books), and fortunately in many regions such activities were successful. By the time Carlos III established a system of inspections ofprotocolos under the direction of the corregidores (local representatives of the Crown) in 1788, the practice of maintaining some type of local notarial archives had become nearly universal.[4]

The Siete Partidas, the twelfth century foundational Spanish legal document, directed that every town in the Crown of Castille have at least one notary to prepare and give faith to legal documents, both public and private. By the beginning of the sixteenth century, all towns and most of the larger villages had one or more public notaries who handled the function of document drafting performed by Anglo-American attorneys, as well as the function of recording and preserving those documents for future private and judicial use, as performed in the United States by county and court clerks.

[1] Novisima recopilación de las leyes de España (Madrid, 1805), 12 vols.. Juan Manuel Montalbán, Recopilación compendiada de las Leyes de Indias: aumentada con algunas notas que no se hallan en la edición de 1841, y con todas las disposiciones dictadas posteriormente para los dominios de Ultramar (Madrid: Imprenta de Ignacio Boix, 1846),  . Gregorio López de Tovar, Las siete Partidas del sabio Rey Don Alonso el Nono: Index seu Repertorium materiarum (Madrid: Fernandez de Cordova, 1598), Google eBook).

[2] Bono Huertas, Historia del Derecho Notarial, tomo 2, 236-237. Blas Casado Quintanilla, "Nombramientos de escribanos públicos en Ávila, y sus circunstancias, en tiempos de los Reyes Católicos," Espacio, Tiempo y Forma, Serie III, Historia Medieval, 17 (2004): 118. Maria Luisa Pardo Rodriguez, "Exámenes para escribano público en Carmona de 1501 y 1502," Historia, Instituciones, Documentos, 1993: 303-313. These last two articles provide specific examples of the activites of the Catholic Kings in this regard.

[3] For a detailed description of the development of the notarial system in the Middle Ages and the reforms of the Catholic Kings, see Bono Huertas, Historia del Derecho Notarial, 254-303.

[4] Boletín Dirección General de Archivos y Bibliotecas, Vol 14, Issue 86 (1965), 21.