Save the Drawings and Plans made for Napoleon I

  • Project for the Palace of Science and Arts (Palais des Sciences et Arts) in Holland, AF/IV/1829 Pièce 34 © AN
  • Fortifications on the Rhine near Mainz AF/IV/1166 Dossier 1 F° 111 bis © AN
  • Example of a document requiring restoration: Plan of the bay at Toulon AF/IV/1206 Dossier 3 F°5 © AN
  • 'La colera' de Napoleon', Spanish caricature translated into French for Napoleon AF/IV/1614 © AN
  • Presentation to the Emperor of the signals used by the British Royal Navy, obtained by the French secret service AF/IV/1189 Dossier 2 F° 222 © AN
  • Project for a flying boat AF/IV/1955 Pièce 33 (VI) © AN
  • Silhouettes of Amerindians sent to Napoleon by a traveller in 1804 AF/IV/1681/A © AN
  • Project for a Monument dedicated to the Grande Armée [intersection of the transept and apse] AF/IV/1955 Pièce 12 (J) © AN

Save the drawings and plans made for Napoleon I



The French national archives (Archives Nationales, AN) and the Fondation Napoléon joined forces to restore and make available to the general public the little-known treasures held amongst the Imperial State Secretariat papers, namely: the 1,800 plans, drawings and maps presented to Napoleon to enable his decision making, whether for decrees, bills or studies requiring his signature.

In September 2017, the Fondation launched an international appeal to raise the funds needed to match those already allocated by the French Archives Nationales.

A priceless archive

Amongst the dozens of dossiers which landed on the Emperor’s desk each day, there were many plans, drawings and maps specially drawn up to assist the head of state in his decision-making. A good few of these were created by some of the greatest artists and architects of the period, namely, David and Isabey, the engraver Denon and the architects Fontaine and Valadier, to mention but the best known.
These documents were associated with their relevant dossiers and handed over to the French Archives Nationales in 1849 along with the entire body of State Secretariat papers. Some were made on delicate materials such as tracing paper, and others bear annotations, some even in the Emperor’s hand. Just consulting the documents exposes them to physical damage.

A huge variety of documents

Until this operation, the inventories for these documents offered scant details, and individual items had therefore been hard for researchers to access. The detailed inventory has now been compiled. This initial inventory work revealed that there are more than 1,800 plans, drawings and maps, about 370 of which required restoration, including: plans of towns and buildings; maps delineating the boundaries of territories, the contours of networks, and the extent of exploration missions; plans for industrial and technical installations; inventions made by civilian and military engineers; projects for fortifications; drawings of medals and uniforms? etc.

Aims of the operation

There were three principal aims:

– immediate restoration of the documents in the worst physical condition;
– digitisation of the ensemble of documents and placing them online;
systematic study of this exceptional collection of documents.

Appeal target: 250,000 euros for the restoration and preservation of this priceless collection.
In order to launch the appeal, the Fondation Napoléon pledged to support the operation with a heritage grant of 25,000 euros.

As a result of its previous fund-raising expertise (The project to restore the French National Domains on St Helena, and the appeal for the restoration of the uniform Napoleon wore at Waterloo, etc.) and because of its excellent worldwide reputation, the Fondation Napoléon was designated to managed the public appeal side of the operation.

What were your donations used for?

– to help the Archives Nationales in their campaign, notably by funding external restoration specialists;
– to facilitate the extremely challenging issues related to the digitisation of the maps, plans and drawings : for example, some of the plans are several metres long;
– to allow some of the restored items to be stored in custom-built containers;
– to publicise the existence of this extraordinary archival collection and to stimulate research in all forms possible (articles, publications of different kinds, exhibitions, etc).

Press release (in French) by the Archives Nationales.

Appeal Results (in French).


On 31 December 2018, the appeal had raised: €260,100:

  • 25,000 euros from the Fondation Napoléon ,
  • 12,500 euros from the Souvenir Napoleonien,
  • 25,000 euros from the patrimonial part of our subscriptions,
  • 197,600 euros from private individuals, companies and associations.

You can still support the Fondation Napoléon in its missions as well as its special projects here.

15 September 2017 (update 8 January 2019)

The partners of this International Appeal

  • logoFonda187-145AN
  • Ministère de la Culture
  • logoAN