Drawings and plans of historic ships are available as contemporary works or as more recent works after compiling the information available on a certain ship or type of ship.
Since early 18th century many drawings were made that are in naval or museum archives today. They are the most reliable source of information. Some of them have been put online by museums or government institutions. They are the easiest way to quickly get information on certain vessels.
The most famous selection of ship drawings was published by Fredrik Henrik af Chapman in 1768. Several reprints of that book are available. The Stockholm Maritime Museum has put the 62 drawings of that publication on its website.
The French Atlas du Génie Maritime has several hundred plans of ships, hull lines, sail plans, rigging and equipment of 19th century vessels. It was published in France in several volumes and is available online with 1086 of its plans.
On the model shipwrights website many different plans are free to download.
The Royal Museums in Greenwich have a large collection of plans that can be bought.
The Deutsche Schiffahrtsmuseum made 5000 ship plans and
drawings of equipment of late 19th century till 1960
for the public in the DigiPEER-project.
The United States Coast Guard has several of its ships on its history website, starting with plans from the early sailing cutters in 1799.
There are several famous printed editions of plans and drawings:
Amiral Paris, Souvenirs de la marine. Collections de plans ou dessins de navires et de bateaux anciens ou modernes, 1871 (in French). Reprint by: Editions des 4 Seigneurs, Grenoble 1975. Very detailed large scale plans, metric scale, of sail in 18th and 19th century.
Album de Colbert, 1670. Reprint by Editions Omega, Nice, 1988. The fifty plates of the "ALBUM DE COLBERT" are the only illustrated document bearing witness to the ambition of Louis XIV in the 1660s to create a navy which would be for some years the most powerful in the world. The 50 plates show every stage of the building of an 80-gun-ship. Comments on the plans in French, English translations in supplement.
Marmaduke Stalkartt, Naval Architecture or The Rudiments and Rules of Ship Building. Exemplified in a Series of Draughts and Plans with Observations. J. Boydell Cheapside, London, 1787. Facsimile reprint by Jean Boudriot Publications, 1991. Description and plans of a 74-gun-ship, a 44-gun-ship and five smaller ships.
The ANCRE publishing house offers several reprints of contemporary books and plans on historic ships.
Recent works on historic ships
The contemporary plans were made for experts who knew how to read such a plan, and usually only specific topics were covered, like the hull lines, or the sail plan. Often only information on the type of ship can be found, not about the specific vessel. If you want to build a model of an historic ship, you are better served with a comprehensive set of plans of that ship, researched and arranged by a naval historian.
Quite famous are the publications by Jean Boudriot and Hubert Berti, all in A.N.C.R.E. publications. They used original sources from archives, museum collections and contemporary publications to compile information on each ship and provided drawings for building a model.
Somewhat older are the plans by Harold Underhill that are sold by model-dockyard.com or can be bought as a book: "Deep-water Sail" by Harold A. Underhill; Brown, Son & Ferguson Ltd., Nautical Publishers, Glasgow 1952 and 1976, ISBN 085174172X.
Many museums sell treatises and plans of the ships that are part of the country's history or of models they have in display. Well known are the publications of the Musée de la Marine in France.
The Nautical Research Guild sells treatises and plans online and by mail.
The German Arbeitskreis Historischer Schiffbau has well researched publications for sale on specific ships.