DOCUMENT, strictly, in law, that which can serve as evidence or proof, and is written or printed, or has an inscription or any significance that can be "read"; thus a picture, authenticated photograph, seal or the like would furnish "documentary evidence." More generally the word is used for written or printed papers that provide information or evidence on a subject. The Latin documentum, from which the word is derived, meant, in classical times, a lesson, example or proof (docere, to teach), and only in medieval Latin came to be applied to an instrumentum, or record in writing. The classical Latin use is found in English; thus Jeremy Taylor (Works, ed. 1835, i. 815) speaks of punishment being a "single and sudden document if instantly inflicted" (see Diplomatic; and Evidence).
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