I wasn’t satisfied with the way the galleries were working, and so I changed them. The initial page of image thumbnails is gone; it was slow, and as the number of images went up it just got slower. Instead the gallery page itself will appear immediately (and rapidly) in a small size, though still big enough to be useful. You can make the gallery bigger by clicking either the “expand” button or the “full screen” button (see the Gallery Help page for more information on the various gallery toolbar buttons). The images initially displayed in the gallery have their sizes limited so they fit in the available space, but many of the images are much larger and can be zoomed in. The gallery pages are now much faster to load and (I hope) easier to use.

The image information section of the gallery (at the bottom, just above the thumbnails) has changed significantly. There was never enough space to show the descriptions as I wanted them, and the popup image information window was awkward and confusing. The information area now only shows the beast name and a short description, with the Image Information button below. There is usually lots more information to see in the window that pops up when you click the button. The window is now split into three sections: Description, Source and Copyright; you can switch sections by clicking the tabs. The Description section has more information about the beast and about that image of the beast; the Source section details where I looted pillaged respectfully acquired the image from and the manuscript or book it belongs to; and the Copyright section provides a copyright declaration for the image, which is sometimes required by the image “owner”.

To give the galleries something to work with, I have added or updated a lot of images from manuscripts. There are almost 1800 images available now in the Beast, Manuscript and Encyclopedia gallery pages. Many of the existing images have been updated with higher resolution versions; the new images are all high resolution. In some cases zooming an image will make it slightly fuzzier, but even so it is usually easier to see what is going on with those crazy beasts.

I have also added a lot of manuscripts. Some have little information; I’d swear those libraries and museums don’t want us looking at their manuscripts. As usual, I have entered all the information I could find, and I will add more as I dig it out of the murk that is the average library manuscript catalog. Several of the added manuscript entries are linked to full or partial online facsimiles, and to additional descriptions.

Several of the existing beast entries have new information, and there are a few new beasts, mostly pillaged from encyclopedia manuscripts where the odd is the norm. There is also a new section in the beast pages, “Reality” where I attempt to explain where the idea of the beasts came from, what we know of them today, and provide “interesting” trivia about the beast and the modern world. Only a few of the beast entries have a Reality section, but I will be adding more.

I have made updates to the Bibliography and the Encyclopedia, fixed many spelling mistakes, fixed a few broken links, and, as usual, squashed those bugs and improved that performance.

The Medieval Bestiary site now has a security certificate (that’s SSL for the nerdy readers). That means your browser won’t be warning you about how unsafe the site might be (it’s not) or putting rude icons in the address bar when you access the site with https:/bestiary.ca the way Google intended (note the HTTPS instead of HTTP). With some browsers (Firefox, for example) there is also a setting that will force your browser to use an HTTPS URL if there is one (there is) and only use the “insecure” HTTP URL if it has to.

I leave you with a fish from Jacob van Maerlant’s encyclopedia Der Naturen Bloeme found in the manuscript Koninklijke Bibliotheek, KB, KA 16, folio 111r. I don’t know what it is, but it is one of the many peculiar “fish” that came from the idea that every land animal should have an equivalent sea animal.

Now that’s not something I would want to find on the end of my fishing line!