How to translate “protocolo notarial”

Legal translators will be familiar with the term “protocolo notarial” that commonly appears in public deeds executed by a notary (e.g. “escritura otorgada bajo el número 200  de su protocolo”).  The “protocolo” is the numbered record of the instruments (contracts, wills, declarations, etc.) that are certified or authenticated by the notary. Authoritative Spanish-English legal dictionaries offer translations such as “record book” and “minute of record”, as well as what seems to be the easiest option, a direct etymological transfer to the English “protocol”. But is it correct to refer to a “Notary’s Protocol”?

The 4th edition of the Black’s Law Dictionary (1968) contains the following reference as one of the various meanings of “protocol”: “Old Scotch Practice: A book, marked by the clerk-register, and delivered to a notary on his admission, in which he was directed to insert all the instruments he had occasion to execute; to be preserved as a record.”

This certainly corresponds closely to the definition of the Spanish “protocolo”, though in the rather limited context of Scots Law. A Scottish lawyer suggested to me that although “protocol” does exist in Scots law, the best option from a broader viewpoint might be “register”.

So, translating “protocolo” as “protocol” in this context is certainly not erroneous since it exists as a bone fide legal term in at least one English-speaking legal system, but the term “register” might be preferable since it is more widely used.

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