Of the securities,provided by law for the protection of property, perhaps none is more important than the registration of land titles. We put aside, very early, the old English notion that the best evidence of title was the possession of the title deeds, and adopted a system which, in theory, proposed to place in a public office, accessible to everyone, a record of the titles to real estate, by which every man might safely buy or safely accept encumbrances. Speaking generally now of the system, the theory seems to be nearly perfect. Every instrument affecting the title to lands must be executed in the presence of a public officer, who is empowered by law to authenticate the act, and it is only on his certificate, given after the observance of all due formalities, that the instrument can go upon record. The record is made up by another public officer, who is permitted to record nothing which is defective, and who shall carefully note the day, hour, and minute when any instrument is presented for record. To insure the prompt recording, the grantee or encumbrancee is notified that his unrecorded instrument shall be invalid as against any subsequent deed or encumbrance which a bona fide taker may receive from the same party, and place first upon record; and as this penalty seems to render it reasonably sure that there will be no needless delay, it is supposed the record will show the actual condition of the title, except in cases of gross neglect. Those cases the law declines to provide for; assuming that it is better that parties failing to record their titles shall run all risks of loss, than that the public record shall be an unsafe reliance. We therefore find this record generally trusted, as if it were something almost infallible; and titles are bought and mortgages taken in reliance upon the mere certificate of the recorder that the grantor or mortgagor is owner.
Cooley, Thomas M. "The Recording Laws of the United States, Their Inadequacy and Their Danger." Report of the Annual Meeting (Amer. Bar Assoc. ) 4 (1881): 199-221.