5,000 Edison Recordings Online

Edison Diamond Disc LabelThe Edison Disc Recordings Access Initiative, a project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities is now being wrapped up by the library’s team of editors and digitizng staff. 

Over the past two years, editors have added a complete discography of Thomas Edison’s disc recordings (1910-1929) to DAHR, documenting more than 14,000 recording sessions that resulted in more than 8,000 published discs. Over 5,000 of these recordings from UCSB’s collection have been digitized and are available online to scholars and the public for free. Additional content from partner archives will be added in the coming months. Ten contextualizing essays for educators and the public have been added, with more in the works.

Thousands of sides from UCSB’s collections have been digitized, most of which are dealer’s stock from the Ogden, Utah jobber’s warehouse that is well known to collectors. Rare discs from the collections of Allen G. Debus, William R. Moran, and Don Hill were also digitized. The copies were transferred with a .7mil stylus, with flat equalization, and summed to mono in the preamp, which we found resulted in the best sound. World War I pressings are known to have poor sound quality, and these were only transferred if later copies weren’t available. Edison routinely issued multiple takes, and alternate takes for classical, jazz, country, and ethnic were transferred if possible. Alternate takes of other materials may be added at a future time.

In compiling the discography for DAHR, documentation held by the Thomas Edison National Historical Park (TENHP)--including recording ledgers, cash books, and artifact descriptions--was consulted. This data was also compared to published and unpublished listings created by Ray Wile to ensure accuracy. Because of the access to files from the TENHP, many experimental and special recordings are listed that have not been previously documented. Another change from other Edison listings is in the marking of early take letters. Edison documents show that matrixes before 2646 indicate takes with S-1, S-2, etc. We have retained Edison’s original take designations in DAHR rather than using the A, B, C, takes found in other listings.

We anticipate that we will continue to transfer additional discs from private collections and public archives in the future, and several collaborations are already in the works. Feedback and inquiries are welcome.