The Prince (Prometheus Books Edtion) / Edition 1

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Overview

"The Prince" has long been both praised and reviled for its message of moral relativism, and political expediency. Although a large part is devoted to the mechanics of gaining and staying in power, Machiavelli's end purpose is to maintain a just and stable government. He is not ambiguous in stating his belief that committing a small cruelty to avert a larger is not only justifiable, but required of a just ruler. Machiavelli gives a vivid portrayal of his world in the chaos and tumult of early 16th century Florence, Italy and Europe. He uses both his contemporary political situation, and that of the classical period to illustrate his precepts of statecraft.

Described as a practical rule-book for the diplomat and a handbook of evil, this work provides an uncompromising picture of the true nature of power.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The introduction is excellent—it places Machiavelli's career and his writings in a persuasive historical context, underlines the inherent limitations of any interpretation that hails him as a 'modern man,' and is written with verve and brio."

—John D. O'Connor
University of New Orleans

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781573924238
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books
  • Publication date: 10/28/1995
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 122
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 10.01 (h) x 0.43 (d)

Meet the Author

Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) was born in Florence. He served the Florentine republic as secretary and second chancellor, but was expelled from public life when the Medici family returned to power in 1512. His other works include The Discourses, The Art of War, and the comic satire The Mandrake.
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Read an Excerpt

Niccolò Machiavelli to His Magnificence Lorenzo de’ Medici1

Those who wish to win the favor of a prince will generally approach him with gifts of what they value most or what they believe will most delight him. Hence we see princes being offered horses, arms, vestments of gold, precious stones, and similar accoutrements 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 long experience of modern affairs and a lifelong study of ancient times, all of which I have weighed and examined with great diligence and brought together into this 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 and with so much danger and hardship. I have not filled this volume with pompous rhetoric, with bombast and magnificent words, or with the 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 material and the gravity of the subject should make it pleasing. Nor do I wish it to be thought presumptuous that a man of low and humble condition like myself should presume to map out and direct the government ofprinces. But just as a cartographer will descend into the plains in order to study the nature of the mountains, and will then climb the highest peaks in order to study the low-lying land, so, too, only an exalted prince can grasp the nature of the 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 perceive in its pages my profound desire that Your Magnificence will rise to the 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.

1. Lorenzo de’ Medici (1492—1519) was the grandson of Lorenzo the Magnificent.

Chapter One
Of the kinds of principalities that exist, and how they can be acquired

All states, all dominions that rule or have ruled over men, are or have been either republics or principalities. Principalities are either hereditary, with a long-established bloodline, or new. And the new principalities are either entirely new, as Milan was to Francesco Sforza2, or are like limbs added to the hereditary state of the prince who acquires them, as the Kingdom of Naples was to the King of Spain3. States obtained in this way are accustomed either to living under a prince, or to being free. They are acquired either with the arms of others, or with one’s own, either by chance or by skill.

2. Francesco Sforza (1401—66) was a soldier of fortune who became Duke of Milan in 1450.
3. Ferdinand the Catholic (1452—1516), King of Aragon, also became Ferdinand III of Naples in 1504.

Chapter Two
Of hereditary principalities

I will not discuss republics, as I have already done so at some length elsewhere. I shall only concentrate on principalities, and shall weave together the threads I have already laid out. I will show how these principalities can be governed and main- tained.

First, states that are hereditary and tied to the bloodline of their prince are easier to maintain than new ones. It is enough not to diverge from the practices of one’s forebears, and to handle unforeseen issues as they arise. If such a prince is of at least average ability he can retain his posi- tion of power, so long as no extraordinary or excessive force deprive him of it. If this prince is deprived of his state, he will find he can reacquire it if any misfortune befalls the usurper.

In Italy we have the example of the Duke of Ferrara, who resisted the assaults of the Venetians in 1484 and of Pope Julius II in 1510, for the simple reason that he had inherited an ancient principality4. A hereditary prince has less cause to mistreat his subjects, and so is more loved by them. If unusual vices do not make him hated, it is to be expected that he will be loved by his people.

The long continuum of the dominion obliterates the memories and issues that make men yearn for innovation, for one change will inevitably forge a link to another.

4. In fact, Duke Ercole d’Este of Ferrara managed to end the war with Venetians in 1484, while his son Duke Alfonso managed to stay in power despite excommunication and an ongoing war with the papal forces.


Chapter Three
Of mixed principalities

It is in the new principality that the difficulties lie. First, if the principality is not completely new, but is like a limb or extension added to another principality (in which case we could almost call the whole state a mixed principality), its volatility stems mainly from a difficulty inherent in all new principalities. This is that men will willingly change their ruler in the hope that they will fare better, a hope that leads them to take up arms against their old ruler. But in this they are deceived, because, as they invariably discover, their lot under a new ruler is inevitably worse. This is the result of another natural and basic inevitability: that you cannot avoid offending those whose new ruler you are, both with your armed soldiers and with innumerable other provocations that come in the wake of a conquest. You end up making enemies of all those you have offended during your conquest of the principality, and you find that you cannot keep the friendship of those who helped you to power, since you cannot satisfy them in the way they had envisioned. Furthermore, you cannot take strong measures against them, as you are indebted to them. Even with the most powerful army, if you want to invade a state, you need the support of the people. It was for these reasons that King Louis XII of France was quick to occupy Milan, and just as quick to lose it. Duke Ludovico’s own forces were enough to win Milan back the first time, because the same masses that had opened the gates for Louis, finding themselves misled in their hopes for a better future, could not endure the new prince’s offenses5.

It is a fact that once a prince acquires a rebellious state for the second time, it also proves harder to lose that state a second time6. This is because the prince who seizes the opportunity of the rebellion has fewer scruples about securing his position by punishing offenders, flushing out suspects, and strengthening all the places where he is weakest. In this sense, it was enough for a Duke Ludovico to make a little noise along the borders for Louis XII to lose Milan the first time. But for him to lose Milan a second time the whole world had to unite against him, defeat his army, and chase it out of Italy7. This followed from the causes I have already laid out. Nonetheless, both the first and second time, Milan was taken from him.

The general reasons for the first loss have been discussed. It now remains to discuss the second, and to see what recourse someone in Louis’s position could have taken to maintain himself more securely in his new acquisition. I must stress that the states a prince acquires and adds to his own are either of the same country and language, or are not. If they are it is much easier to retain them, particularly if they are not used to freedom. To hold them securely, it is enough to extinguish the line of the previous prince who ruled them. As for the rest, if the new acquisition’s former state of affairs is kept and there is no difference in customs, men will live quite peacefully, as we have seen in Burgundy, Brittany, Gascony, and Normandy, which for a long time now have all belonged to France. Although there is some difference in language, their customs are similar, and their people get along with one another quite easily. He who acquires such states and wishes to retain them has to make sure of two things: that the bloodline of their former princes is extinguished, and that their laws and taxes remain the same. This way, the prince’s new state merges with the old, quickly becoming a single body.

But difficulties arise when you acquire states in a land with differing languages, customs, and laws. To keep these states, you need good fortune and much diligence. One of the best and quickest solutions is for the new prince to go and live in his new state. This makes the possession more durable and secure. The Turk did this in Greece8. With all the other measures he took to keep Greece in his possession, had he not gone to live there he would not have succeeded, because once the prince is established within his new state he is able to see problems as they arise and can remedy them. If he is not there, problems become obvious only once they are dire and can no longer be remedied. Furthermore, if he is present, his new state will not be looted by his officials, and his new subjects can enjoy immediate access to their prince. This will give them more reason to love him if they are on his side, and to fear him if they are not, and foreign powers wishing to attack his state will respect him more. Hence, if the prince lives in his new state, it is difficult for him to lose it.

Another efficient remedy is to set up colonies in one or two places that will act as the shackles of your new state. If you do not set up colonies, you will have to send a great number of troops to secure it, while a colony can be established and maintained at negligible cost. The only subjects who will be affronted are those whose fields and houses will be confiscated to be given to the new colonists. But these dispossessed subjects make up only a small part of the state and will end up poor and dispersed, and so can do no harm. The rest of your new subjects will not be affronted (and hence will be acquiescent), but will also be frightened of transgressing, worried that they too might be dispossessed. I conclude that colonies do not cost much, are loyal, and will cause less trouble. And as I have already mentioned, those you dispossess cannot harm you, as they will be poor and dispersed. In short, men must either be flattered or eliminated, because a man will readily avenge a slight grievance, but not one that is truly severe. Hence, the offense done a man must be of the kind that cannot incur vengeance.

If you choose armed forces instead of colonies, you will spend more and will have to squander all the income from the new state in order to pay the army. This will turn the acquisition into a loss, and all your new subjects will end up offended, since an army, constantly on the move and constantly requartered, hurts the whole state. Everyone feels the pain, and everyone becomes your enemy. And these are enemies who can harm you, because though they have been defeated, they remain on their own ground. So in every sense, using armed forces is as useless as setting up colonies is useful.

It is also important when a prince has conquered a foreign state that he become the protector of the surrounding weaker powers, and do all he can to weaken the stronger ones. He must take precautions so that no foreigner equal in power manages to enter his new state. If he should enter, it will be because he was brought in by discontented factions driven by ambition or fear. We saw this in the case of the Aetolians who introduced the Romans into Greece;9 and in every other province in which the Romans set foot, it was with the help of some of the inhabitants. The order of things is that the moment a powerful invader takes over a state, all the weaker factions within it join forces with him, spurred on by their envy of the ruler who had wielded power over them before. In other words, the new prince has no trouble winning the weaker factions over, because they will willingly become part of his new state. He has only to see to it that they do not gain too much power and authority. With his forces and their favor, he can easily bring down those who are powerful so that he will remain the only arbiter in the land. He who does not follow this course will quickly lose all he has gained, and will be plagued by infinite difficulties while he holds power.

5. Louis XII occupied Milan in September 1499, but was ousted in February 1500 by Ludovico Sforza. Louis, however, managed to recapture Milan within two months.
6. Once Louis XII recaptured Milan, it remained under his rule until 1512.
7. The Holy League of 1511, organized by Pope Julius II, was an anti-French coalition that included Spain, Venice, the Holy Roman Empire, England, and the Swiss. The League managed to drive the French out of Milan in May 1512.
8. The Turks occupied Constantinople in 1453, and in 1457 transferred the capital of the Ottoman Empire from Edirne to Constantinople.
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Table of Contents

Chronology
Map
Introduction
Translator's Note
Selected Books
Machiavelli's Principal Works
Letter to the Magnificent Lorenzo de Medici 1
I How many kinds of principality there are and the ways in which they are acquired 5
II Hereditary principalities 5
III Composite principalities 6
IV Why the kingdom of Darius conquered by Alexander did not rebel against his successors after his death 13
V How cities or principalities which lived under their own laws should be administered after being conquered 16
VI New principalities acquired by one's own arms and prowess 17
VII New principalities acquired with the help of fortune and foreign arms 20
VIII Those who come to power by crime 27
IX The constitutional principality 31
X How the strength of every principality should be measured 34
XI Ecclesiastical principalities 36
XII Military organization and mercenary troops 39
XIII Auxiliary, composite, and native troops 43
XIV How a prince should organize his militia 47
XV The things for which men, and especially princes, are praised or blamed 49
XVI Generosity and parsimony 51
XVII Cruelty and compassion; and whether it is better to be loved than feared, or the reverse 53
XVIII How princes should honour their word 56
XIX The need to avoid contempt and hatred 58
XX Whether fortresses and many of the other present-day expedients to which princes have recourse are useful or not 67
XXI How a prince must act to win honour 71
XXII A prince's personal staff 75
XXIII How flatterers must be shunned 76
XXIV Why the Italian princes have lost their states 78
XXV How far human affairs are governed by fortune, and how fortune can be opposed 79
XXVI Exhortation to liberate Italy from the barbarians 82
Glossary of Proper Names 86
Notes 99
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 162 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 18, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    The original political action handbook

    Many Americans do not understand the motives and actions of the politicians whom they elect. The voters have expectations, but they fail to appreciate that the politicians have personal and professional agendas. THE PRINCE rips the curtain away to expose the true motivations of politicians, whether a "progressive" agenda of Barak Obama, the "left-wing liberal" bias of Nancy Pelosi, the "tea party conservative" blurts of Sarah Palin, or the vague agendas of the smilingly attractive and apparently patriotic and caring (but otherwise unknown) candidates for local school board. Despots aren't made; they're chosen. Leaders aren't born; they're made. Followers aren't created; they're the people who give away their rights and responsibilities to others who offer to think and choose for them. Machiavelli didn't invent the rules; he simply observed the rise and dominance of the most powerful family in Italian history and shared their secrets with posterity. Truth is truth, whether it describes Renaissance Venice during the time of great painters and corrupt popes or Washington DC during the time of vapid platitudes and bloated bureaucracies. EVERY management, business, political science, sociology, psychology, and education major should read this book before completing their sophomore year; otherwise, they'll miss the opportunity to manipulate minds effectively during their junior and senior years...and beyond. Because it predates the hollow pretext of "political correctness" and such laughable conceits as "unity through diversity," THE PRINCE explains what true power is, how to achieve it, how to wrest it from others and wield it effectively, and how to gain more of it at the expense of stupid people who haven't read Machiavelli. The author presumes "the why" is simple: having power beats the alternative.

    26 out of 33 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 7, 2009

    AP World History Book Review: a description of my opinion of the book

    I am a student that read this book, The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli. I believe that this book is great for people that want to be a leader sometime in life or history buffs that want to learn more about leadership. I would not reccomend this to people that either just want a book to read to pass time or people that are not interested in the subject. I personally thought this book was good because I enjoy historical texts. Last year in my regular world history class, we read an excerpt from this book (or at least a form of this book) and I found it very interesting how Machiavelli included things such as poetic devices to incorporate with things like leadership. In case anyone doesn't know, this book was written during the Renaissance time period.
    Back to a point of mine made earlier, I wouldn't reccomend this to some people just because people like to complain about the length of books and that the book was boring. That would be the case with this book. I thought it was good, but honestly I was pretty bored with it after periods of reading. But we have to remember that historical texts like this were written back when times were peaceful to where now we have books about the world ending so there is a distinct difference between the two. All in all, I liked this book but it definately wasn't one of my favorites.

    13 out of 22 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 24, 2010

    Ashlee, a student at The Gereau Center

    The Prince is a very long "how to" essay written by Machiavelli and addressed to Lorenzo de'Medici. It was designed to help Lorenzo, a prince, rule his country. The essay has also been looked at by government officials, whether they be princes or presidents or congressmen, around the world to help with the governing of their state or country. The book has many literary devices in it, but the most notable of them are: descriptive chapter titles, allusions, and the metaphors. Machiavelli titles his chapters so they describe the very thing that the chapters will entail. It's almost as if you can read just the title of the chapter and feel like you could tell someone exactly what the chapter is about. For example, the chapter title, "Of Cruelty and Mercy, and Whether It Is Better To Be Loved Than Feared, or the Contrary." Machiavelli also uses allusion to explain the point he is making in whichever chapter he is making the point in. He makes points and then supports them with someone who has done the opposite or the same as the point he is making. He does this to express the validity of his beliefs of ruling. He refers to Alexander the Great and Ceaser. Machiavelli also includes metaphors all throughout the book. For example, "Thus, whoever examines minutely the actions of this man will find him a very fierce lion and a very astute fox."I don't personally have a favorite or worst part of the book because I didn't really enjoy reading any part of the book. However there are many valid points concerning leadership in the book.

    8 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2013

    Essential book

    Machiavelli has a bad reputation but this is because people judge him by this work alone. This is because he was not wtiting about the way things should be but the way things were/are. For another view of a differing side of his thinking read his "Discourses on Livy". The Prince is a book that should be read by everyone.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 10, 2009

    AP World History book review of the Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli

    The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli is a great overall book for people interested in the often violent means that political power is seized, kept, and lost. This book greatly portrays the leadership of leaders in the Renaissance time period and describes hereditary principalities, which are inherited by the leader. I wouldn't recommend this book to people who either aren't interesting in politics or the Renaissance time period. Also if you like reading really long books than this definitely is not one for you. Overall in my mind this was a great historical classic and I recommend it.

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 14, 2009

    Death in a Book

    If you are looking for a way to torture your children, making them read this book is the best advice I can give you. This book was torture reading. The vocabulary was hard for me to understand, along with the many concepts he had on how to be a successful prince. It's not a very long book but when I read it, it seemed like it would never end. He repeats the same concept over and over in different ways, making it harder to understand. Also, the way he writes is very confusing. I do not recommend this book at all, unless you enjoy reading, history, and a challenge.

    2 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2014

    Essential book

    Loved it..

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  • Posted July 16, 2013

    I found it impossible to read this. It was by far the most borin

    I found it impossible to read this. It was by far the most boring work I have ever laid eyes on. Tedious does not even begin to explain the writing. It goes on and on about nothing.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2013

    Extremely disappointed - not suggested for academic use

    While this e-book was wonderfully translated, it lacked a lot of information about Empress Theodora. When trying to find bountiful information about her, I implore you to not buy this e-book.

    0 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2013

    Seth here

    Hay mag i think i got locked out

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2013

    SETH TALEXO TO CHELSE

    Hay i am here are u

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 3, 2012

    Okay but not my cup of tea

    This is not something I would keep in my bookshelf. I can see why people would consider this a classic, but for me this is too repetitive and not very cohesive in my opinion. Then again, this is a letter and it is written very well and it is organized into sections. Overall, it was not an exciting read for me for a high school summer assignment.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2012

    Why is the cover Cesare Borgia?

    Why is the cover Cesare Borgia?

    0 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2012

    In school

    Reading it in school so boring.about middle age politics.

    0 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2012

    The italian history

    The parts where someone was once famous but is any more where s little tricky

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 8, 2011

    Excellent!!!

    Every thoughtful person should have have this book in their home or on their nook!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 17, 2011

    An interesting classic

    "A Prince ought to have no other aim or thought, nor select anything else for his study, than war and its rules and discipline; for this is the sole art that belongs to him who rules, and it is of such force that it not only upholds those who are born princes, but it often enables men to rise from a private station to that rank".

    The previous paragraph is just one of many eye popping statements in this little yet powerful book written about half a millennium ago. I have to be very honest when I say I had no clue what I was getting into when I picked it up. I actually did so because a good friend read it and told me she was very impressed with Machiavelli's ruthlessness. The classic philosophy of "The ends justify the means" gets perfectly displayed in this manual for tyrants.

    When Machavelli refers to a "Prince" he refers to the ruler of a territory, regardless of its title or the way such a territory was obtained. When reading this book you have to do your best to set yourself in 1513, when it was written and the principles of democracy and international law were not what they are today. But still, it is an essay where sanguinariness is just a byproduct of your need to rule a territory and its people.

    I was mesmerized by the specific instructions on how to dominate a principality based on the different ways you came to rule it. You cringe as you pass the pages and it touches on the best armies to have and how to make them willing to die for you, how mean you have to be in order to be respected, how to balance being loved and feared by your people and even how to keep your subjects distracted by factions and fostering enmities. It is funny when he specifically states he does not want to get to deep into the princes of the Church but still touches on the wickedness of the rulings of the Popes and their powers.

    The more you get into it this book, the more you feel that Dick Cheney read it just before ordering his puppet George W. Bush to invade Iraq for no justifiable reason. As you flip the pages you see the script that tyrants like Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez have been using to subdue their people in order to keep themselves afloat.

    I still wonder what was the original audience of this book was when it was originally written.

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  • Posted February 23, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    ok

    ok book

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 12, 2011

    Great for a Civis and Free Enterprise class!

    loved this book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2010

    An Amazing Read

    The Prince is full of strategy that is as useful to us today as when it was written long ago. Human psychology really doesn't change over time, so the principals work just as well now as then. This book should be read by anyone in a competitive field-you can be assured your competition has probably already read it. Machiavelli's advice is practical and has been easy to put into practice in my own life.

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