50 variant-colored volumes of 25 titles (of 29). Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1893-1896. Original terra-cotta or light blue or light green cloth, decoratively stamped in dark green.
Beginning with "George Egerton's" 1893 novel KEYNOTES, for which the series would be named, John Lane of London published, over the course of five years, a series of 33 first editions of fiction; the Keynotes books came to epitomize the 1890s, not only for their content ("The New Women and The New Fiction" per Stetz & Lasner), but also for the design of the volumes (binding and title page designs by Aubrey Beardsley and then by Patten Wilson).
Of the 33 titles published in London, 29 were published in Boston by Roberts Brothers (first American editions all), using virtually the same binding and title-page design (except the first volume KEYNOTES, which has the design on the title page but not on the binding). The four that were NOT published by Roberts Brothers were the 21st one THE BRITISH BARBARIANS (because G.P. Putnam had the American rights to it), and the final three (probably due to waning interest: instead, John Lane sent over some copies printed in the UK). The cloth choice was three different colors, as cited above. The rear cover, and the half-title verso, bear the distinctive Keynotes "key," in which are incorporated each author's initials.
This collection consists of 50 volumes of 25 (of the 29) titles published by Roberts Brothers: the four that are lacking are the two titles each by Arthur Machen and by M.P. Shiel -- which are easily-enough found, but being highly-sought mystery/fantasy/occult titles, they are in a very different price range (generally $500-$2,000 each). The authors of the Keynotes Series constitute a Who's Who of 1890s up-and-coming writers (especially female ones), but there are also writers such as Fyodor Dostoievsky (POOR FOLK, two copies, with Beardsley's famous "drainpipe" illustration), and Thomas Hardy (THE SPECTRE OF THE REAL, co-written by Florence Henniker, two copies).
In all, this group consists of 17 terra-cotta copies, 20 blue ones and 13 green ones, with no two copies the same; there are all three colors of seven titles, two colors of eleven titles, and one color of seven titles. (We do not know whether every Roberts Brothers "Keynotes" title was in fact issued in all three colors.) About four volumes we would rate as very good, but all the rest are near-fine to fine; nice copies of the books of this series have become rather uncommon. More detailed information about the volumes is available upon request. Item #14531