PRINCE BISMARCK began his notes soon after his dismissal from the offices he had so gloriously filled had removed the espalier -- as he himself repeatedly said -- over which his life had hitherto climbed. The first suggestion came to him in an inquiry from Messrs. Cotta, coupled with an offer of publication; and as early as June 6, 1890, an agreement was made between the Prince and the representatives of the publishing firm of Cotta, by which, in the event of any Reminiscences being written by the Prince, the right of publication was conveyed to that house. To Lothar Bucher, the historian and diplomatist, who after the Prince's resignation lived for years, with short intervals, as a quiet inmate now at Friedrichsruh, now at Varzin, belongs the merit of having confirmed Prince Bismarck in his resolution to set down in writing his recollections and political thoughts, and of having in daily conversations kept him to the task when begun. Bucher's shorthand notes from the Prince's dictation formed the groundwork of the first draft. This for years the Prince zealously worked at, constantly revising the notes as divided into chapters and systematically arranged, and supplementing them with his own hand. In order to lighten his labour the' Reflections and Reminiscences' were privately printed as early as 1893, with all the alterations which the Prince had made in the first draft. He then went over this printed 'copy' again two or three times, and subjected it to careful verification, in which his almost unerring memory was of the greatest service to him. Even within the last two years he entirely recast whole chapters.
The increasing burden of years and a certain shrinking from the trouble of writing occasionally brought the work to a standstill; but a great portion was finished and now forms a precious inheritance for the German nation. Our Statesmen and Historians will in centuries yet to come draw instruction from this source, while our whole people, even to the remotest times, will, as from the works of their classical writers, derive edification from the book which Bismarck has bequeathed to them.
It has been the Editor's duty, in pursuance of injunctions emanating from Prince Bismarck himself, to correct by the originals the various documents, which were often taken from defective printed versions; to correct trifling errors in dates, or in the spelling of names, due to want of official material; and to draw attention in foot-notes to similar expressions used by the Prince in his political speeches, as well as to give literary references. Nowhere, however, has the text been altered or abridged -- where the dead is of such sort, piety bids us refrain.