Two solvent systems for fully dissolving, and optionally derivatizing, finely ground plant cell wall material at room temperature are described: dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO) and tetrabutylammonium fluoride (TBAF) or N-methylimidazole (NMI). In situ acetylation produces acetylated cell walls (Ac-CWs) that are fully soluble in chloroform. Lignin structures tested remain fully intact. The dispersion of 13C–1H correlations afforded by two-dimensional (2D) nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) experiments reveals the major lignin units, allowing the whole lignin fraction to be analyzed by high-resolution solution-state NMR methods for the first time. Non-degradative cell wall dissolution offers the potential to analyze polysaccharide components, and improve current cell wall analytical methods by using standard homogeneous solution-state chemistry.