Medieval Power may sound a bit like the latest reorganisation of the electricity industry but it is actually the title of a British Museum travelling exhibition now being hosted by the Queensland Museum. The advertising stresses ‘ the precious gold, jewellery, seals, sculptures, stained glass and many other symbols of courtly life alongside tools of war, objects of religious significance and humble items from everyday life dating back to AD 400’, but there are also several items of real interest to the more technically minded. You can find more information on the BM website.

In this respect, the star is the Blakene astrolabe, the earliest signed and dated (1342) European instrument known.

It is a really nice one, with an elegant rete with a quatrefoil rather than arabesques, and  gothic Latin script. It is signed Blakene me fecit anno do 1342. It’s a pity one  can’t see the back, but..

Another item worth seeing is the ‘world’ map of 1482 by Johannes Schnitzer . It was actually meant to be an illustration for an edition of Ptolemy’s Cosmographia, so I think more was already  known about Africa than is shown here, but it is a lovely map.

Another gem that is not a gem is an anonymous engraving from 1464 (circa) about Mercury.

There is an explanation printed below but unfortunately the BM does not provide a translation.

Can anyone help?

 Mercury is flying, very luxuriously above Florence, which seems to be well into the Renaissance already, and the local people are engaging in characteristic artistic activities. In the middle of the picture are some astronomers or astrologers with an armillary sphere, but don’t miss the weight-driven wall clock on the right. The engraver has even shown the foliot at the top. The pendulum was still 200 years away.

Elsewhere in the exhibition, there are some interesting balance weights, and of course, all of the pomp and power items promised. Just to mention three, there are chessmen from the Lewis set, and, as it was getting towards mealtime when I visited, I was attracted to a quirky drinking horn

and a nutcracker