Stamp duty is a tax that is levied on single property purchases or documents (including, historically, the majority of legal documents such as cheques, receipts, military commissions, marriage licences and land transactions). A physical revenue stamp had to be attached to or impressed upon the document to show that stamp duty had been paid before the document was legally effective. More modern versions of the tax no longer require an actual stamp.
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The duty is thought to have originated in Venice in 1604, being introduced (or re-invented) in Spain in the 1610s, the Spanish Netherlands in the 1620s, France in 1651, Denmark in 1657, Prussia in 1682 and England in 1694.