These plans-reliefs are historical models of fortified towns, mostly on a 1:600 scale. Started in 1668 under Louis XIV and expanded up until 1873, they form a royal and imperial collection that is the only one of its kind in the world. Designed initially for military usage, they represented the fortifications and their surroundings, thus enabling the preparation of operations of war. They were also used for diplomatic purposes and for prestige; put on show until 1777 in the Bord-de-l’Eau gallery at the Louvre, they displayed the power of France.
Sixteen models are featured in this book, chosen amongst the most spectacular, such as the Cherbourg plan-relief which expands over an area of 160 m2. Rarely displayed to the public, indeed some have never even left the Invalides storehouses, these plans-reliefs are aesthetic and technical masterpieces which were made from accurate surveys carried out in the field. Even the smallest details were the exact reflection of reality. They have endured over the centuries to provide us with a majestic and immobile vision of a France that has now vanished and been transformed, and to help us reflect on both national and local history, and on the concepts of space, border and territory.