Ok this is awesome. An article at IHT tells of a recording that was made something like thirty years prior to Edison's first recording and playback. This recording, called a phonautograph, was very recently played back for the first time. It was created by a French typesetter and librarian named Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, and what really fascinates me is that he had no intention of trying to play it back. His interest was in capturing sound as a written, permanent thing. This is something more akin to the very recent interest in audio visualization (Reactable, for example) as opposed to Edison's intent, and that of the entire audio industry that followed in his wake.
To me, seeing a sound wave really strikes me as a very modern thing, though maybe that's completely wrong. It's more a symbol of a questioning, experimental nature than of the concrete marketability of the phonograph. For this reason, it really feels to me like Scott was 150 years ahead of his time.