And further the bailiff is questioned about his account of 14d. for the return of the “census” this year, and it is handed to him in full court.The editors placed a note at the end of the transcription inviting opinions on the meaning of "the return of the census". A reply was published in a subsequent issue of Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries (Vol. 20, 1938-9, p.331) by "F.R-T." who is probably Frances Rose-Troup, the author of a number of well-respected local history books published in the early decades of the twentieth century:
"Return of the Census" is explained by the following paragraph from Cowel's Interpreter: "CENSURA, a custom so call'd, within several Mannors in Cornwall and Devonshire, whereby all Residents therein are cited, above the Age of 16, to swear Fealty to the Lord, to pay 11d. per Poll and 1d. per An. ever after, as Cent Mony, or common fine. And these thus sworn are call'd Censers".On checking the entry for census in the online edition of the OED I discovered that the earliest quoted reference dated from 1613:
1613 PURCHAS Pilgr. I. IV. xvi. 373 What isI therefore wrote to the OED editors to enquire if they might be interested in my much earlier example. I received the following reply this morning:
properly called Census, the poll-money of his subjects.
It will be interesting to see what the editors make of the quotes when the revision is finally published.
I shall add this information to the OED's revision file, so that the editors can follow it up when they come to work on the entry… This represents a huge antedating for CENSUS, and our researcher will enjoy looking into it. Thank you for alerting us to these records.