The evolution and progression of multiple myeloma and its precursors over time is poorly understood. Here, we investigate the landscape and timing of mutational processes shaping multiple myeloma evolution in a large cohort of 89 whole genomes and 973 exomes. We identify eight processes, including a mutational signature caused by exposure to melphalan. Reconstructing the chronological activity of each mutational signature, we estimate that the initial transformation of a germinal center B-cell usually occurred during the first 2nd-3rd decades of life. We define four main patterns of activation-induced deaminase (AID) and apolipoprotein B mRNA editing catalytic polypeptide-like (APOBEC) mutagenesis over time, including a subset of patients with evidence of prolonged AID activity during the pre-malignant phase, indicating antigen-responsiveness and germinal center reentry. Our findings provide a framework to study the etiology of multiple myeloma and explore strategies for prevention and early detection.