The conventional story is that the principle of provenance was "formulated at the French National Archives" in the 1820s and adopted gradually in nineteenth century Europe as a response to the necessity to organize archival material for scholarly research. Based on the 1841 French statement concerning respect des fonds in departmental archives, the Prussian edict of 1881, the publication of the classical and neutral formulation by Muller, Feith, and Fruin in 1898, and the international ratification at the Brussels Conference in 1910, the principle of provenance became a governing factor in archival arrangement.
"The Provenance of Provenance in Germanic Areas,"
Provenance, Journal of the Society of Georgia Archivists
Available at: http://digitalcommons.kennesaw.edu/provenance/vol7/iss2/5