The initial manifestation of something.
A thing from which copies are made, especially a prototype.
DiplomaticsThe first complete and effective version of a record.
LawThe thing itself or a duplicate intended to have the same effect by the person creating it.
An original may have preceding versions, which may themselves be considered distinct originals. A written speech may have gone through several drafts, and a photographic print may be made from a negative. Originals are considered to be the most authentic form of a document, based on the assumption that any copy involves some loss of fidelity. That assumption is questionable in the electronic environment, where a sequence of digits may be demonstrated to be identical (although the display of those digits may vary depending on the system used to view them).
In some instances, copies are designated as originals by law. In particular, microfilmed records are legally equivalent to the originals.
Duranti 1998, p. 165 An original is the first complete and effective document, that is, an original must present the qualities of primitiveness, completeness and effectiveness. With facsimile transmission, the first two qualities belong in the document transmitted while the latter belongs in the document received.