Sorry, Edison. It seems the famed “Mary Had a Little Lamb” recording by Thomas Edison — thought to be the first-ever audio recording — was actually late to the party. A recording on April 9, 1860 by a typesetter and inventor (Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville) was apparently first, according to a discovery by audio historians digging through an archive. Scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif. have reconstructed that recording. It sounds — well, barely like a recording at all, but you can vaguely make out singing in the background. (Not quite hi-fi.)

Au Clair de la Lune [MP3]

The Edison recording worked more like phonograph recordings to follow; it was recorded on tin foil. But this recording was essentially optical — a phonautogram that recorded sound visually. There’s a terrific article at the New York Times:

Researchers Play Tune Recorded Before Edison (via … my Dad! Thanks, Dad!)

Anyone familiar with phonautogram technology, I’d love to hear from you. Historians in our midst, perhaps?

More historical oddities: How Francis Bacon predicted the recording studio in ‘New Atlantis’ in 1626 on Music thing

Updated: The original inventor didn’t get to hear his recording — it debuted in 2008. (And you think your record label takes a long time to release things.) The reason? The device could record, but couldn’t play back.

More on the technology involved, including a bizarre alternative using a dead person’s ear.