The Edison Speaking Phonograph Company was formed in 1878 to exploit Edison's startling new invention, and the fact that this model was named the 'Parlor' indicates an early vision of the phonograph as a form of home entertainment, which in practice would not be fulfilled for another two decades.
This example was acquired new by Edward (later Sir Edward) Johnson-Ferguson, of Dumfriesshire. A mathematician (32nd Wrangler in the Cambridge Tripos) and enthusiast for scientific discoveries, he apparently lost interest in the phonograph after making a recording (as the one recorded foil strip suggests), and it languished in the attic of his house for the next 100 years. The cardboard horn bears the stained imprint of a left hand grasping it, as if to steady it while holding the left ear close to it in an attempt to make out a faint message. Perhaps the excitement of hearing, however remotely, one's own voice for the first time in 1878 contributed to the sweaty imprint on the cardboard.
The phonograph's limited usage is confirmed by its remarkably original condition; perusal of the instructions (which have some slight moth damage) indicates that there would originally have been a rubber-covered bar to wedge the ends of the tinfoil in the slot in the mandrel, and a 'centre pin' for checking that the line of the stylus was central to the mandrel groove under the foil. Neither of these has survived.