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The word prothonotary is recorded in English since 1447, as "principal clerk of a court," from L.L. prothonotarius (c.400), from Greek protonotarios "first scribe," originally the chief of the college of recorders of the court of the Byzantine Empire, from Greek protos "first" + Latin notarius ("notary"); the -h- appeared in Medieval Latin. The title was awarded to certain high-ranking notaries.

Byzantine usage

The office of prōtonotarios (), also proedros or primikērios of the notarioi, existed in mid-Byzantine (7th-10th c.) administration as head of the colleges of the notarioi in various administrative departments. There were prōtonotarioi of the imperial notarioi (secretaries of the court), of the various sekreta or logothesia (government ministries), as well as for each thema or province. The latter appeared in the early 9th century and functioned as the chief civil officials of the province, directly below the governing general (stratēgos). They were responsible chiefly for administrative and fiscal affairs (characteristically, they belonged to the financial ministry of the Sakellion), and were also responsible for the provisioning of the thematic armies. The office vanished after the 11th and 12th centuries, along with the themata and the logothesia, although there are traces of a single prōtonotarios functioning as the emperor's chief secretary until the Palaiologan...
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