Master of the Housebook and Master of the Amsterdam Cabinet are two names used for an engraver and painter working in South Germany in the last quarter of the 15th century. He is apparently the first artist to use drypoint, a form of engraving, for all of his prints (other than woodcuts he may have designed). The first name derives from his book of drawings with watercolour, called the Housebook, which belonged to the German noble family of Waldburg-Wolfegg from the 17th century until 2008, when they were reported to have sold it for €20 million to a Swiss buyer. However the legality of its sale for export has been challenged, and for the moment it remains with the family. In 1999, the book was loaned to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. for an exhibition. The majority of his surviving prints are in the print room at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, hence his second name. Most, but not all, art historians still agree that the Housebook and the prints are by the same artist.
His ninety-one prints are extremely rare, with sixty surviving in one impression (copy) only, and none in more than five - there are a total of 124 impressions, 80 in Amsterdam. It is thought that because his prints were made using only the shallow, scratched line of drypoint, probably on tin or a pewter-type alloy, only ten to twenty impressions of each could be taken before the plate wore out. Many engravings by other artists are believed to be copies of missing works by this master. In particular, Israhel van Meckenem seems to have copied more than thirty.
It was first suggested in 1937 that he should be identified as Erhard Reuwich of Utrecht, an artist and (or) printer working in Mainz, who designed and signed an influential 5-foot-long (1.5 m) woodcut panoramic view of Venice made following a visit in 1483 or 1484 during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Reuwich printed the account in Latin of the trip, the Sanctae Peregrinationes by Bernhard von Breydenbach of 1486, in which the woodcut was the first ever fold-out plate. The design was later adapted by Michael Wolgemut for the Nuremberg Chronicle. Reuwich was taken as an artist in the entourage of Breydenbach, a wealthy canon of Mainz Cathedral. The book also contained panoramas of six other cities, including Jerusalem, studies of Near Eastern costume, and an exotic alphabet - the first in print. It was a bestseller, reprinted thirteen times over the next three decades, including editions printed in France and Spain, for which the illustration blocks were shipped out to the local printers.