Those who wish to win the favour of a prince will generally approach him with gifts of what they value most or what they believe will most delight him. Hence we seen princes being offered horses, arms, vestments of gold, precious stones and similar accouterments, worthy of their grandeur. Wishing to present myself to your magnificence with a token of my deepest respect, I have found among my possessions nothing that I value or esteem higher than my knowledge of the deeds of great men. I have acquired this knowledge through my experience of modern affairs and a lifelong study of ancient times, all of which I have weighed and examined with a great diligence and brought together into a small volume, which I am now offering to your magnificence. Though I deem this work unworthy of being in your illustrious presence, my confidence in your benevolence persuades me that it will be accepted, and that your magnificence will recognize that I cannot offer you a greater gift than the prospect of your understanding in the shortest period all that I have experienced and learned over so many years with so much danger and hardship. I have not filled this volume with pompous rhetoric, with bombast and magnificent words, or with unnecessary artifice with which so many writers gild their work. I wanted nothing extraneous to ornament my writing, for it has been my purpose that only the range of the material and the gravity of the subject should make it pleasing. Nor do I wish to be presumptuous that a man of low and humble condition like myself should presume to map out and direct the government of princes. But just as a cartographer will descend into the plains in order to study the mountains, and will climb the highest peaks in order to study the low-lying land, so, too, only an exalted prince can grasp the nature of people, and only a lesser man can perceive the nature of a prince.
I hope therefore that your magnificence will accept this humble gift in the spirit in which it is offered. Should you condescend to read and consider it carefully, you will perseive in its pages my profound desire that your magnificence will rise to greatness that fortune and your qualities promise. And should your magnificence deign to look down from the lofty summit of your eminence to these lowly depths, you will see how I have suffered undeservedly fortune’s great and continuing malignity.