The efficient assembly of histone complexes and nucleosomes requires the participation of molecular chaperones. Currently, there is a paucity of data on their mechanism of action. We now present the structure of an N-terminal domain of nucleoplasmin (Np-core) at 2.3 A resolution. The Np-core monomer is an eight-stranded beta barrel that fits snugly within a stable pentamer. In the crystal, two pentamers associate to form a decamer. We show that both Np and Np-core are competent to assemble large complexes that contain the four core histones. Further experiments and modeling suggest that these complexes each contain five histone octamers which dock to a central Np decamer. This work has important ramifications for models of histone storage, sperm chromatin decondensation, and nucleosome assembly.