I read a wonderful story today. David Giovannoni found some of Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville's phonautograms, made in the late 1850s and early 1860s with his invention, the phonautograph, a device intended to record a visual representation of sound on smoked paper. Scott had no intention of trying to reproduce sound from his phonautograms, but Giovannoni thought it might be done. Two Berkley scientists were able to derive a recognizable voice, singing "Clair de la Lune," from an 1860 phonautogram. I can't wait to hear it.
There is a persistent rumor that Abe Lincoln made a phonautogram. Wouldn't that be cool if were true?
The image shows a later phonautograph built by Alexander Graham Bell while he was working towards the telephone. Bell used a human ear in his device. Yechh.