How do I cite a Primary Source within a secondary source?

For example, in Eyewitness to Irish History, a section of the Primary Source The Mystery of the Casement Ship, the particular section being a quote from the captain of a sunk ship, is shown. How do I cite this primary source, while it is within a secondary?

I am using Biblatex.

  • It really depends on the citation style (MLA, Chicago, APA, etc.), but it is not uncommon to do something like: 'Quoted in <Secondary Source>, p. <pageref>'. It might be helpful to edit the 'For example...' sentence to make it clearer. I find it hard to follow.
    – jon
    May 4, 2013 at 4:02
  • This is best done with "related entries" using the RELATED* fields. See the biblatex doc and the related entries example file which comes with biblatex. If you do it this way (which requires biber) the primary and secondary sources each have their own entries which means they can be used/reused in other ways by other entries or cited on their own etc.
    – PLK
    May 4, 2013 at 4:26

1 Answer 1


I'd say your question isn't really TeX-related, but it's a question of how to properly mark a second-hand quote as such -- or, as I prefer to call them, a ›blind quote‹. (= a quote from a text that you haven't actually seen, but that's only been handed down to you through another text. Blind quotes tend to be frowned upon and are best dealt with by staying away from them.) The answer to that question will be the same across all software systems, and very similar across different citation schemes as well. A jon said, such a blind quote is usually marked by a phrase like »quoted in«, followed by a reference to the book that quotes the quote you want to quote.

So, with biblatex, you'll simply use the prenote for that:

\cite[quoted in][123]{Doe87}
...depending on the style that you've set up biblatex to use, this will give you something like:

»...«, said Captain Soandso in 1774 (quoted in Doe 1987: 123).


»...«, said Captain Soandso in 1774.1
1) quoted in Doe 1987: 123.


[alternative scenario:] If the Eyewitness book contains more than just a quote from the Mystery text, i.e. if Eyewitness is a collection of primary sources that are re-printed in large portions -- then we're no longer talking about blind quotes, since these collections are usually meant to be quoted from, as they make available text that are hard to find otherwise.

bib(la)tex has the @INCOLLECTION entry type for things like that. The Eyewitness will get their own entry, as will the Mystery. The latter has a crossref field referring to the former, so that, in the bibliography/references, the Mystery will be a self-contained entry providing the reader with all the information they need to track down the text that you're citing -- regardless of whether, at a differnt point in your text, you cite the main book or not. Note that this example uses authoryear style, but it should work with any other style as well.


  editor =       {Witness, Walt},
  title =        {Eyewitness to Irish History},
  publisher =    {Dublin UP},
  year =         {2013},
  address =      {Dublin}
  author =       {Captain, Kirk},
  title =        {The Mystery of the Casement Ship},
  year =         {1774},
  pages =        {123-24},
  crossref =     {Eye}


\enquote{\dots} says \textcite[123]{Ship}.

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  • +1, but if Eyewitness is a "collection of primary sources" (and Walt Witness presumably its editor), one should rather use the @collection entry type for it (and @incollection for Captain Kirk).
    – lockstep
    May 5, 2013 at 10:04
  • Sure, you'd have to check what kind of book you're dealing with and what's the role that Walt Witness is playing. I'll modify my answer, as most books of that kind are indeed @collections with editors.
    – Nils L
    May 5, 2013 at 10:09

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