The Secretary of State was given an additional responsibility in 1853 when he was made official custodian of the Great Seal of Maryland. Since that year, the Secretary of State has had physical custody of the successive Great Seals and is responsible for applying the seal to those official documents where required by law or custom. The original die of the Great Seal of Maryland of 1876 (now damaged) was created in accordance with Joint Resolution No. 5 of the 1876 General Assembly session.
The Seal of Maryland was engraved upon brass and executed in Paris in late 1878 or early 1879. This embossing seal impressed an image of the Great Seal directly into the paper. Today the Seal of Maryland is embossed or printed onto foil disks that are later applied to the document. The Great Seal of Maryland is used by the Governor and the Secretary of State to authenticate Acts of the General Assembly and for other official purposes. The first Great Seal of Maryland was sent from England shortly after the settlement of the colony.
With the exception of the period during crown rule (1692-1715), when different seals were used, the first Great Seal remained in use, although slightly altered, until the Revolution. The State of Maryland then adopted a new seal similar in form and spirit to those of other states. One hundred years later, the State of Maryland re-adopted its old seal (Joint Resolution no. 5, Acts of 1876). The reverse of this Seal of Maryland is the only part which has ever been cut.
The obverse is still considered part of the seal and is often used to adorn public buildings. The reverse (at right) consists of an escutcheon, or shield, bearing the Calvert and Crossland arms quartered. Above are an earl’s coronet and a full-faced helmet. The escutcheon is supported on one side by a farmer and the other a fisherman. It symbolizes Lord Baltimore’s two states: Maryland, and Avalon in Newfoundland.
The Calvert motto on the scroll is “Fatti maschii parole feminine,” which is usually translated ” manly deeds, womanly words.” The Latin legend on the border (the last verse of Psalms 5 from the Vulgate) is translated “with favor wilt thou compass us as with a shield.” The date, 1632, refers to the year the Maryland charter was granted by Charles I, King of England, to Cecilius Calvert, second Lord Baltimore. The obverse (left) of the Seal shows Lord Baltimore as a knight in full armor mounted on a charger. The inscription translated is “Cecilius, Absolute Lord of Maryland and Avalon, Baron of Baltimore.”