Marc Smith trained as a historian and palaeographer at the École des chartes, he holds a doctorate in history from the École Pratique des Hautes Études and is a former member of the École Française de Rome. After an early career as an archivist at the Archives Nationales, he was elected professor of palaeography at the École des chartes (1999), henceforth specialising in the history of writing. Since 2013 he has also held a chair at the École Pratique des Hautes Études, and in 2015 he was elected president of the International Committee for Latin Palaeography. He has published extensively and frequently lectures in the fields of history, art history, palaeography (and occasionally type) especially in Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States.
His research focuses on the history of writing in the Roman alphabet from Antiquity to the present in its material, social, cultural and cognitive contexts; particularly, in recent years, on European writing masters and their engraved calligraphy manuals from the Renaissance to the nineteenth century, with support from the Singer-Polignac Foundation, the Newberry Library (Chicago) and Harvard University. His latest project, as a visiting scholar at Cambridge University, investigates the history of paper in Renaissance Britain.