Habele has obtained the copyright for a massive and unique multi-volume collection of transcribed source documents dealing with Micronesian history. The US nonprofit began to provide copies, free-of-charge, to educators and institutions across the Micronesia and United States in 2022.
Rodrigue Levesque is a brilliant polyglot who travelled the world working on United Nation and other development projects. On a trip to the Pacific, he became fascinated with Micronesia. He was horrified at the lack of published source material on the Islands, particularly the very early times. He spent decades, and enormous sums of his own money, digging for, and translating documents from around the world.
As explained in this 2014 Saipan Tribune article,
“According to Levesque, it was this experience of intrigue and mystery and the lack of history about Micronesia, compared to Polynesia and even Melanesia, that inspired him to start his decades-long project.
‘I decided to let the world know about Micronesia and its interesting past,’ Levesque said.
Over the years he relentlessly pursued the project, scouring archives, libraries, and institutions of a dozen countries and languages to find source material—all of which he photocopied, photographed, or typed into a few laptops.”
Rod made novel translations of thousands of documents between 1992 and 2002. These were compiled in forty massive volumes, with only the first twenty being printed in physical form. Though the series has been widely cited by the small number of dedicated historians who publish academically on Micronesian topics, very few, save a number of universities and museums, ever bought physical copies of these books.
“Beyond donating physical copies, the larger, and more influential possibility is placing all of the content from all forty volumes on the internet to be freely and easily accessible by all” explained Neil Mellen, Executive Director of Habele.
Overview of the first twenty volumes, from a pamphlet published by Levesque:
Vol. 1—European Discovery, 1521-1560
Volume 1 contains 71 chapters, 100 documents, beginning with the prehistory of the Pacific, the discovery of America and the South Sea, as well as all primary source documents from Portuguese and Spanish archives on the expediions from Magellan to Villalobos. There are 23 documents about the voyage of Magellan. Other explorers are also featured: Balboa, Espinosa, Elcano, Da Rocha, Loaysa, Saavedra, Grijalva, Castro, De la Torre, and De Retes.
Vol. 2—Prelude to Conquest, 1561-1595
Volume 2 contains 100 chapters, about 142 documents, covering all the Spanish voyages and expeditions made in the Pacific during this period (Legazpi, Arellano, Urdaneta, Pericon, Mendana, Gali, Unamuno, Cermeno, and Ordonez), those by the Portuguese (Da Gama), and by the English (Drake and Cavendish).
Vol. 3—First Real Contact, 1596-1637
Volume 3 contains 89 chapters totaling 144 documents covering all the voyages and expeditions made in the Pacific during this period by the Spanish (Mendana, Quiros, Vivero, Rios Coronel, Vizcaino, Cardona, etc.), by the Dutch (Mahu, Van Noort, Speilbergen, Schapenham), by Italians (the Carlet-tis), by an Austrian (Femberger), and previously-unknown voyages by the Japanese (Hosuke, Hasekura and Shogen). There are many “new” documents, conveniently placed in their proper chronological order.
Vol. 4—Religious Conquest, 1638-1670
Volume 4 contains 82 chapters totaling 123 documents covering all the voyages made in the Pacific during this period by Spanish galleons, and 2 expeditions made by Dutch ships (Quast, Vries). For the first time ever, there is a complete set of documents from the archives about the conquest of the Mariana Islands and the establishment of a Spanish colony and Jesuit mission there. Every document appears in its proper chronological sequence.
Vol. 5—Focus on the Mariana Mission, 1670-1673
Vol. 5 contains 55 chapters totaling about 139 documents covering all the mission activities during this period. Belgian Jesuits became involved at this time; the correspondence of Fathers Bouwens and Coomans, in Latin, was discovered in Belgium by the editor in 1990; many efforts were spent in transcribing and translating these 55 Latin reports, which are published here for the first time. All documents are cross-referenced and appear in their proper chronological sequence.
Vol. 6—Revolts in the Marianas, 1673-1678
Volume 6 contains 62 chapters totaling about 95 documents (not counting the originals) covering all the activities of the Mariana Island Mission during this period. Two chapters give the first history of the mission (1667-1673) written by Father Coomans, one of the Belgian Jesuits. Full details are given about the Spanish government soldiers, the missionaries and their assistants, the native rebels, the battles and martyrdoms. Four more missionaries were killed by the natives during this period.
Vol. 7—More Turmoil in the Mariands, 1679-1683
Volume 7 contains 89 chapters totaling about 131 documents covering the civilian and religious activities of the Spanish colony in the Mariana Islands during this period. The murders of missionaries and armed reprisals continued, with the assistance of a native militia. The soldiers built better protection for themselves, and the yearly galleon stops at Umatac became routine. The first government regulations were issued by the Governor of the Philippines. The first Governor directly appointed by the King arrived at Guam; he was Colonel Saravia. Captain Quiroga also arrived; this man was to be the most influential non-Jesuit foreigner until his death in the 1720s.
Vol. 8—Last Chamorro Revolt, 1683-1687
Volume 8 contains 82 chapters totaling 141 documents mostly covering the activities of the Spanish colony in the Mariana Islands and their relationship with the rebellious natives. The last Chamorro revolt took place in 1684, and it was almost successful. At last, the many reports ever written about this revolt have been collected, translated, and appear in one volume; they include the eulogies of the dead missionaries.
Vol. 9—Conquest of the Gani Islands, 1687-1696
Volume 9 contains 97 chapters totaling 156 documents covering such events as the arrest and trial of Governor Esplana, the soldiers’ mutiny of 1688 in which interim Governor Quiroga was put in jail, the shipwreck of the Patache Pilar in 1690, the burning of the Patache San Gabriel in 1692, the strong typhoon that hit the Marianas in 1693, the first church census of 1693, the death of Esplana in 1694, the discovery of Marcus Island by Captain Arriola in 1694, etc. Most important was the military re-conquest of the Northern Marianas by Governor Quiroga in 1695. The Gani Islands are the islands north of Saipan; their natives began to migrate to Saipan, where Fr. Bouwens became their first curate. However, the resettlement of the native population was not completed until 1697-98.
Vol. 10—Exploration of the Carolines, 1696-1709
Volume 10 contains 95 chapters totaling 152 documents in 6 languages, and describing some major events, as follows: Phase 1 of the exploration of the Caroline Islands; the final reduction of the Gani Islands; the ultimate native revolt (crushed before it took effect); the diary of Antonio Robles in Mexico; the trade report of the French Captain MonsSgur; a complete record of galleons for the period, including some island discoveries in the Bonin Island area; and more Chamorro news, including the threat of their deportation to the Philippines.
Vol. 11—French ships in the Pacific, 1708-1717
Volume 11 contains 62 chapters totaling 158 documents and 42 illustrations. The bulk of these documents have to do with the appearance of French ships at Guam during this period, at least 17 of them. The illustration above is that of the ship St.-Antoine-de-Padoue, Captain Frondat. Other documents deal with English pirates such as Woodes Rogers, with more Spanish voyages of exploration to the Carolines (including one led by a German sailor), with subsidies, etc. The population of Guam had been reduced to one- third its size at conquest.
Vol. 12—Carolinians drift to Guam, 1715-1728
Volume 12 contains 66 chapters totaling 189 documents and 20 illustrations. The illustration above shows the details of the construction of a Carolinian voyaging canoe. The rear endpaper of this volume shows a very rare map of the Caroline Islands which I found in Prague in 1997. A reliable translation of Father Cantova’s report on the Carolines appears in this volume. We have two more English pirates coming through the Marianas during this period: Captains Clipperton and Shelvocke. The trials of Governor Pimentel and of the French captain Boislor6 show how the Spanish justice system worked in the colonies.
Vol. 13—Failure at Ulithi Atoll, 1727-1746
Volume 13 is mostly about the attempt to conquer the Central Carolines, specially Ulithi Atoll. It contains 68 chapters totaling 150 documents and 32 illustrations. Excerpts from three very-rare books: 1) Father Canto va’s biography by Fr. Spilimberg; 2) Governor Valdes’ Instructions for the management of galleons; and 3) Admiral Cabrera-Bueno’s Nautical Handbook with sailing directions for the Pacific
Vol. 14—Full Census of the Marianas, 1746-1773
Volume 14 is focused on the genealogy of the Marianas, as it includes the first, and last, full listing of all their inhabitants. There were only 1,700 inhabitants in the Marianas in 1758. All in all, this volume contains 76 chapters totaling 175 documents and 47 illustrations. The major events of this period include the visit of two French Navy ships at Guam in 1772. In 1762, the English Navy invaded Manila Bay and sacked Manila. They were also lucky in capturing the galleon Santisima Trinidad; her treasure was taken to England, and the ship itself was sold at Plymouth. Another significant event in the Mariana Islands was the expulsion of the Jesuit missionaries—a political decision.
Vol. 15—Mostly Palau, 1783-1793
Volume 15 is mostly about Palau. It contains 9 parts, including the reprint of 3 rare books: the Account of the Pelew Islands, edited by Keate; the Supplement to said Account, by Rev. Hockin; and the Narrative of Amasa Delano. As for the logbook and narrative of Captain McCluer, who visited the islands in 1791, and stayed for 15 months in 1793-94, it is here published for the first time. By the way, the works of two of his associates. Lieutenants Wedgeborough and Snook appear in the next volumes. The English did establish a colony in Palau, bringing in useful animals and plants, but it did not last.
Vol. 16—The Malaspina Expedition, 1773-1795
Volume 16 contains all documents about the Malaspina Expedition that visited Guam in 1792. All in all, it contains 96 chapters, 205 documents, and 88 illustrations. The figure above is that of Commander Alexandro Malaspina. He was the leader of the first scientific expedition to the Pacific. His work and that of 12 of his officers appear in this volume.
Vol. 17—last Discoveries, 1795-1807
Volume 17 contains 97 chapters, with 229 documents and 56 illustrations. Shown above is part of the first map of the Island of Kosrae that was discovered by an unnamed French ship in 1804, a month before a Yankee ship came by. At least nine more islands were discovered by Europeans during this period; they were to be the last such discoveries. They were: Eauripig, Woleai, Nauru, Ebon, Puluwat, Banaba, Losap-Nama, Murilo and Nukuoro.
Vol. 18—Russian Expeditions, 1808-1827
Volume 18 contains 57 chapters, with 100 documents and 65 illustrations. The figure above is that of Kadu, a Carolinian who had drifted to the Marshall Islands and was befriended by the Russians. The main documents deal with the first Russian scientific expedition to the Marshall Islands in 1817, led by Captain Kotzebue, and the visit to Guam of the Golovnin expedition the following year. Another significant event was the voyage of the last Manila galleon that reached Acapulco in 1816. As a result of the Mexican revolution, the Spanish colonies on the western side of the Pacific no longer received Mexican funds. The trans-Paciflc trade was opened to private shipping.
Vol. 19—The Freycinet Expedition, 1818-1819
Volume 19 contains 14 documents from 1818, plus extracts from four books about the Freycinet expedition of 1819, with 50 illustrations. The French scientific expedition led by Captain Freycinet was the most thorough to visit Micronesia ever. Its 12-volume official report includes information about life there up to 1819: history, anthropology, sociology, native customs, industry, commerce, flora and fauna, linguistics, etc. Captain Freycinet’s narrative is given here in full; it includes special reports by many of its officers, notably Lamarche, Berard, Doctors Quoy and Gaimard. So are the letters of his wife who was part of the crew, and the letters of Jacques Arago, the artist. Arago’s book is also reproduced; it is a poetic rendering that reads like a historical novel.
Vol. 20—Bibliography, List of ships, Cumulative index.
Volume 20 contains 3 books, bound as the last volume of the first series of volumes on the history of the central and north Pacific areas, as follows:
Book 1—Bibliography of Micronesia. Definitive edition of an annotated bibliography of printed works about Micronesia arranged in chronological order with an emphasis on history, plus general works, and reference works on the same subjects. Book 2—Ships Through Micronesia. Definitive edition of a chronological list of ships that visited Micronesia, from Magellan’s time to modern times. Book 3—Cumulative Index to Volumes 1-19. Definitive edition, arranged alphabetically, from A to Z.