The scope and range of Hirsch's book excited me--at last a new comprehensive history of American and European photography! Unfortunately the quality of the illustrations was poor, smudgy halftones and no duotones. (Rosenblum's WORLD HISTORY OF PHOTOGRAPHY has much better). The book even reproduces some color photographs in black and white.But it is Hirsch's writing that really disappoints: long awkward sentences that wander in circles, sentence fragments, and some obviously absurd statements. Take Hirsch's comment on a 1852 daguerreotype of the moon (p. 45): "Previously only a few people had seen the surface of the moon." No doubt he meant something else, but I suspect every sighted human being who ever lived has seen the surface of the moon.
Anyone who wishes to learn about the history of photography should read Beaumont Newhall, Naomi Rosenblum, or a host of others before turning to Robert Hirsch.
This is my personal favorite book on the history of photography. There is another one called World History of Photography that is good too. This book, Seizing the Light, is designed very well, and includes many crisp images (and all the landmark photographs in history). The book is divided into the following sections: Advancing toward photography, the daguerrotype, calotype rising, pictures on glass, prevailing events, a new medium, standardizing the practice, new ways of visualizing time and space, evolution of pictorialism, modernism, new culture of light, social documents, nabbing time, photography and the halftone, the atomic age, new frontiers, changing realities, and finally thinking about photography. I like this book because it is organized so well, and it is easy to navigate while studying it.