A system for time-discretized spectroscopic measurements of the vacuum ultraviolet (VUV) emission from spark discharges in the 60-160 nm range has been developed for the study of early plasma-forming phenomena. The system induces a spark discharge in an environment close to atmospheric conditions created using a high speed puff value, but is otherwise kept at high vacuum to allow for the propagation of VUV light. Using a vertical slit placed 1.5 mm from the discharge the emission from a small cross section of the discharge is allowed to pass into the selection chamber consisting of a spherical grating, with 1200 grooves/mm, and an exit slit set to 100 μm. Following the exit slit is a photomultiplier tube with a sodium salicylate scintillator that is used for the time discretized measurement of the VUV signal with a temporal resolution limit of 10 ns. Results from discharges studied in dry air, Nitrogen, SF6, and Argon indicate the emission of light with wavelengths shorter than 120 nm where the photon energy begins to approach the regime of direct photoionization.