Histone posttranslational modifications and histone variants control the epigenetic regulation of gene expression and affect a wide variety of biological processes. A complex pattern of such modifications and variants defines the identity of cells within complex organ systems and can therefore be used to characterize cells at a molecular level. However, their detection and identification in situ has been limited so far due to lack of specificity, selectivity and availability of anti-histone antibodies. Here, we describe a novel MALDI imaging mass spectrometry (MALDI-IMS) based workflow, which enables us to detect and characterize histones by their intact mass and their correlation with cytological properties of the tissue using novel statistical and image analysis tools. The workflow allows us to characterize the in situ distribution of the major histone variants and their modification in the mouse brain. This new analysis tool is particularly useful for the investigation of expression patterns of the linker histone H1 variants for which suitable antibodies are so far not available.