[rfc-i] only sort of about issue: canonical formats

John Levine johnl at taugh.com
Fri Jun 1 11:11:50 PDT 2012

A few years back my church's endowment opened an account at a new
bank, and since the church is a corporation, the bank wanted a copy of
our certificate of incorporation.  Since this was the first account at
a new bank we'd opened in probably 100 years, the question hadn't come
up before, so I had to do some research.

Here in New York, there's a whole law about religious corporations,
which says among other things that even though every other kind of
incorporation is handled in Albany, churches are handled by counties.
So I dropped by the county clerk's office, the same place where they
keep the real estate records.

If you've never been to one of these offices, even though many of them
have spiffy online systems to look up data, the real records are kept
in numbered bound books.  Depending on how long your town has been
settled, the books can go back a long way.  I've looked at books from
the 1600s in Massachusetts.  Our church isn't that old, but it was
incorporated in 1868.  After some head scratching I found a book
called Miscellaneous Records Book 2, with the certificate on pages 370
and 371.  Back before photocopiers, the clerk used a pen and an
inkwell and recorded documents by copying the text of the original
directly into the blank pages of the book, using consistently
excellent penmanship.  Our certificate in the book has a copy of the
entire text of the document, the signatures of the two trustees, the
notary's oath and signature, and the certification of the clerk, all
copied out by hand.

Since you can't take the books out of the room, I made photocopies of
the pages, then went home and scanned the photocopies into a PDF.
What's canonical?  The book?  The long lost original from 1868?  My
copies or the PDF?  The answer is, IT DOESN'T MATTER.  When I brought
a printout of the PDF to the bank they said, wow, haven't seen one of
those in a while, and that was that.

So although canonical contents matter, and I am quite sure all of
the versions of my church's certificate contain exactly the same
words, the format doesn't.


PDF of certificate at http://unitarian.ithaca.ny.us/cert-incorp.pdf

More information about the rfc-interest mailing list