To tot was a legal term meaning to mark an item in the sheriff’s list with the word tot or the letter T, showing that the amount had been levied, and was to be accounted for, by him.
This verb is first recorded in 1368 in a public statute written in French:
Par la ou en la verte cire est mande a visconte pur lever les dettes le Roi les ministres des viscontes les levent par roulles & autres remembrances & ne monstrent les dites estretes desouz le seal del escheqier issint qe ce qest leve une foitz vient autrefoitz en demande par cause qils ne se chargent au plein de ce qest leve en deceit du Roi & empoverissement de son poeple est ordene & assentu qe homme veie les dites estretes enseallees, & qe ce qest paie soit tottee, & meismes les estretes mandez as viscontes sur la receite.
Whereas the green wax* is sent to the sheriffs to levy the King’s debts, the sheriffs’ ministers levy the same by rolls and other remembrances, and do not show the same estreats** under the seal of the exchequer, so that which is once levied comes another time in demand, because they do not charge themselves fully of that which is levied, in deceit of the King and impoverishment of his people ; it is ordained and assented that a man shall see the same estreats sealed, and that the same which is paid be totted, and the same estreats sent to the sheriffs upon the receipt.
– * A document or estreat giving notice of a fine, amercement, etc., delivered by the Exchequer, bore a green wax seal. The office of Surveyor of Green Wax continued to exist nominally in the Exchequer Office until the early part of the 19th century, but without substantive functions.
– ** an estreat is the true extract, copy or note of some original writing or record, especially of fines, entered on the rolls of a court to be levied by the bailiff or other officer.
The Latin tot meant so much, so many (also read quot homines tot sententiæ), and according to Thomas Blount (1618-79) in Nomo-Lexicon : A Law Dictionary (1691 edition), in its legal sense tot is short for the Latin tot pecuniæ Regi debentur, meaning so many sums of money are due to the king:
Totted, A good debt to the King, is by the Foreign Apposer***, or other Officer in the Exchequer, noted for such, by writing this word tot to it q. d. Tot. pecuniæ Regi debentur. Also that which is paid shall be totted.
– *** an apposer was an Exchequer officer who examined or audited the sheriffs’ accounts. The office was abolished in 1833.
To tot took several additional senses, in particular to note or distinguish a name in a list by some mark or a prick. A letter written on 2d November 1522 by Cardinal Wolsey (1474-1530) to King Henry VIII (1491-1547) contains the following:
Accordyng to the statute, and anxient usage yerly usid in such cas, I, this day, with sundry Lordes of your Counsayle, and the Judges, procedyd to election of your Schreffes in every schire, for thys yere ; whos namys be comprisid in a byll of parchement herin closid ; desyring Your Grace to tot and marcke suche oon of thre namyd for every schire, as may stand with your gracious pleasure, and that doon, to remitte the said byll unto me, to be executyd accordyngly.
And, in a letter to the King written on 12th August 1524, Cardinal Wolsey used to tot to mean to write down by way of note:
Pleasith it Your Highnes to be advertesed, that Clarenceulx is retourned out of Scotland ; with whom the King of Scottes hath sent unto Your Grace a right trusty servaunt of his, called Patrike Saintklare, with letters and credence, the copy wherof, with my poore opinion upon the same, totted in the margyne, I sende unto Your Highnes herewith.