Terra Ultima: The Discovery of a New Continent
Dutch artist Raoul Deleo features as a character in his own inventive picture book—the title translates from the Latin as ‘The End of the World’. Narrated in first person by a fictional academic, Dr Noah J. Stern, the book is an assemblage of ephemera, illustrations, and diary entries from Deleo’s supposed expeditions to a hidden continent inhabited by colourful hybrid creatures including the Flamingo Fawn and Large-Eyed Mouse Carp.
Alternating between single-page monochrome drawings and sumptuous full-page colour spreads Deleo’s draughtsmanship, evoking artists such as John James Audubon, encourages prolonged and repeat attention. Diary entries conjure secrecy and mystery, and interactive maps, diagrams, and footnotes will activate young explorer mentalities. Philosophical and scholarly reflections, meanwhile, are peppered throughout: ‘Why do I want animals to notice me?’ Deleo writes in his diary, before identifying his answer: loneliness.
Real-life explorers Abel Tasman, Jacob Roggeveen, and Alexander von Humbolt, as well as fictive ones such as Lemuel Gulliver, are name-checked, providing an opportunity (sadly, not taken) for extra information on these references. This rare oversight aside, the handsome design and detailed and vibrant creatures within more than make this book a treasure worth holding on to. The story’s ending suggests that more expeditions to Terra Ultima lie ahead for Deleo, and I expect the illustrator’s readers of this volume will be caught hook, line, and sinker.