The Gnostics and their Remains, by English lapidarist, classicist, and writer Charles William King, was originally published in 1887. This work by King, is an attempt to collate a picture of gnosticism from the known sources of the time: early Christian writers, the Pistis Sophia, and the jumble of images and cryptic inscriptions on Roman-era gems and amulets.
Despite the patchy sources, King managed to assemble a picture of the Gnostics which is still cited today as authoritative. Showing that rather than being one monolithic group, the Gnostics had diverse beliefs. Some thought Jesus was a man, others believed he was a god, and some believed that he became a god after he was baptized.
Some believed in Good and Evil, others were non-dualistic. The vast majority had widely-varying complex system of mediators between the ultimate deity and humanity. Which, prima facie, looks polytheistic, but was in fact an attempt to solve the problem of how a perfect God could create an imperfect world. Many of these intermediary Aeons, later becoming the demons and angels of Medieval and Renaissance magic.
Charles William King (1818-1888), was a British Victorian writer and collector of gems. King entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1836, graduated in 1840 and obtained fellowship in 1842.
King was thoroughly familiar with the works of Greek and Latin authors, especially those of Pausanias and Pliny the Elder, which bore upon the subject in which he was most interested; but he had little taste for the minutiae of verbal criticism. In 1869, he brought out an edition of Horace, illustrated from antique gems. He also translated Plutarch's Moralia (1882) and the theosophical works of the Emperor Julian (1888), for Bohn's Classical Library
King spent much time in Italy, where he laid the foundation of his collection of engraved gems and gemstones, which, having been increased by subsequent purchases in London, was sold by him in consequence of his failing eyesight, and was presented in 1881 to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. He was recognized universally as one of the greatest authorities in this department of art.
His chief works on the subject are:
• Antique Gems, their Origin, Uses and Value (1860), a complete and exhaustive treatise
• The Natural History of Precious Stones and Gems and of the Precious Metals (1865)
• Early Christian Numismatics (1873)
• The Handbook of Engraved Gems (2nd ed., 1885)
• The Gnostics and their Remains (2nd ed. by J Jacobs, 1887, which led to an animated correspondence in the Athenaeum)