The OED, s.v. 'origin', describes this as
the act or fact of beginning, or of springing from something; beginning of existence with reference to source or cause; rise or first manifestation
Under this same entry, 1b., the citations include the following from 1867: J. McCosh Method Divine Govt. (ed. 9) iii. ii. 377, 'The origin of evil, like every other beginning, shrouds itself in darkness'. Perhaps this 'darkness' about the origin of everything is most apt to discussions of textual genesis.
Seemingly conversely, though, the OED's meaning 2a, reveals 'origin' as
a. That from which anything originates, or is derived; source of being or existence; starting point. Now freq. in pl.
Trying to untangle these two proximate definitions of 'origin' is headache-inducing, and yet, in textual studies, the 'origin' can take on an, arguably, extraordinary and disproportionate significance. For textual critics, especially those trained in the classics or early literatures, determining the 'origin', the Ur-text, the fons is the goal of the editor. Interesting debates in the 1990s emerged among the traditional philologists (see, for example, the essays in D. G. Scragg and P. E. Szarmach, eds., Editing Old English [Brewer, 1994]) and the new philologists (P. Zumthor [Towards a Medieval Poetics], B. Cerquiglini [In Praise of the Variant] Stephen Nicholls [The New Philology]). The issue at stake was how to present the text. At the risk of oversimplifying complex arguments, it is the debate about whether to present a reconstructed, hypothetical proto-text that best illustrates the author's intended text (see the rationale of the Piers Plowman Project here: http://www3.iath.virginia.edu/seenet/piers/) or whether to privilege the variant, or at least given the variant its long overdue sustained consideration (also part of the remit of the Piers Plowman venture). For many editors, treading a via media between these seemed preferable; for others, the argument for presenting simulacra, perhaps with en-face transcription, was a key desideratum.
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