295J Alfonso GIANOTTI,  S.J.

Mysticum heliotropium Hoc Est Selectae Industriae Ad Unionem Cum Deo consequendam.

Ingolstadt: Joannes Ostermayr, 1658.        $3,300
16mo ( 3.86 x 2.24 inches), [8] leaves, 267, [5] pp. Two title pages, one engraved, the other IMG_1232letterpress: the former consists of a full-page emblematic design which includes several Latin Biblical quotes. Bound in 19th-century quarter brown morocco, five raised bands on spine, with small gilt design in the compartments; small paper defect in the lower margins of the first quire affecting a portion of the border of the engraved tittle and some letters in the letterpress title, including the last two roman digits of the date.

FIRST LATIN EDITION (see below) of the widely popular spiritual treatise whose title translates “The Mystical Sunflower,” by the Jesuit theologian Alfonso Gianotti (1596- 1649), Rector at Reggio and Bologna. The work’s title is a metaphor expressing that just as the sunflower always faces the sun, so the Christian soul is engaged in the constant pursuit of connecting itself with God.
This Latin translation, attributed in the title to “Another member of the Society of Jesus,” is based on the elusive original Italian version, Il mistico Girasole, believed to have first been published at Bologna in 1641, and reprinted there in 1646; although such Italian editions are mentioned by several sources (e.g., Tiraboschi, Biblioteca Modenese II, p. 403, and G. Melzi, Dizionario di opere anonime … di scrittori Italiani, vol. 1, p. 70),

No copy of any edition appears to have survived: I have been unable to locate an actual copy of any edition in any catalogue, including OCLC, WorldCat, NUC, etc.

The work was also translated into German as Die Geistliche Sonnenwend (Munich 1659).
Of the present first Latin edition a small handful of copies are known in European libraries, and reprints are recorded in 1665 and 1698; of this 1658 first edition and its 1665 reprint no copies may be located in American collections; of the 1698 reprint one copy is located at Harvard.


§ De Backer III, p. 1392, no. 2; VD17 12:102783F.


Quoted from:Annals of Botany 117: 1–8, 2016
doi:10.1093/aob/mcv141, available online at
VIEWPOINT. Phototropic solar tracking in sunflower plants: an integrative perspective Ulrich Kutschera* and Winslow R. Briggs
Department of Plant Biology, Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford, CA 94305, USA *For correspondence: E-mail



IMG_1236The most popular misconception is that flowering H. annuusheads (Fig. 1) track the moving sun across the sky. This belief can be traced back to the writings of the German Jesuit poly- math Athanasius Kircher (1602–1680), who has been described as ‘the last man who knew everything’ (Breidbach and Ghiselin, 2006). In a monograph published in 1643, Kircher de- picted a ‘sunflower clock’, which purported to inform humans about the time of day via continuous movements of the mature, flowering head, driven by a mysterious cosmic magnetic force (Fig. 2A). Today, we no longer take this example of early 17th century natural magic seriously, but in Kircher’s time the stan- dards were different. In a subsequent book of 1667 entitledRegnum Naturae Magneticum, Kircher depicted a more realistic version of his ‘sunflower clock’, which is reproduced here. This drawing shows a mature sunflower plant the East head of which tracks the sun during the day, from 0600h (6 am), through 1200 h (noon), to 1800 h (6 pm).


In a classic monograph on Asteraceae of the genus Helianthus, Heiser (1976) summarized quotations from poets in which Kircher’s ‘sunflower dogma’ had been praised. He referred to the English botanist John Gerard (1545–1611), who was the first to dispute the old misconception of the ‘moving sunflower heads’ (Gerard, 1597), as depicted by Kircher in 1667. Heiser argued that ‘green plants are phototropic and respond by growing toward the source of light. Thus many plants, particularly at early stages, bend toward the east in the morning and toward the west in the evening. The common sun- flower shows this tendency more strikingly than most plants, but, once the flower head opens, it no longer bends toward the source of light. Interestingly enough, in my gardens the heads of the giant sunflowers always end up facing the east’ (Heiser, 1976, p. 28).