He was born at Rethel in the Ardennesdépartement of France. After studying three years at prestigious École Normale Supérieure with the view of becoming a teacher, he was in 1822 on political grounds expelled from the seminary. He then studied law, but in 1826 he established in Paris a publishing business for the issue of works adapted to improve the system of school instruction, or to promote the general culture of the community. He published manuals in various departments of knowledge, dictionaries of modern and ancient languages, educational journals, and French, Latin and Greek classics annotated with great care by the most eminent authorities.
Subsequently to 1850 he, in conjunction with other partners, published a cheap railway library, scientific and miscellaneous libraries, an illustrated library for the young, libraries of ancient literature, of modern foreign literature, and of modern foreign romance, a series of guide-books and a series of dictionaries of universal reference. In 1855 he also founded Le Journal pour tous, a publication with a circulation of 150,000 weekly.
Hachette also manifested great interest in the formation of mutual friendly societies among the working classes, in the establishment of benevolent institutions, and in other questions relating to the amelioration of the poor, on which subjects he wrote various pamphlets; and he lent the weight of his influence towards a just settlement of the question of international literary copyright.