About Us

Who Are Motte & Bailey?

Motte & Bailey is actually a what, not a who. It is a type of medieval Norman castle, a wooden palisade rising on a mound of earth, found in many places in England, Wales, and Scotland. At Motte & Bailey Booksellers, we specialize in books concerning all the various aspects of history, so we chose a name that reflects our interest.

The History of the Bookshop

Motte & Bailey, Booksellers began here in Ann Arbor, with UM librarian Gene Alloway discovering great books at local sales and selling exclusively on the web. By 2000, John Murphy II, Paul Hare and Gene had an opportunity to expand into a storefront. We found a lovely building, an 1870's Italian style with three floors and a basement. The building had previously housed a bar, a telecommunications office, a bindery, a pharmacy for holistic medicine , and, if local opinions are correct, a brothel on the upper floor, though not all at once. The rent for the first floor and basement fit the budget. We started moving things in around the first of August 2000.

On October 15, 2000, after building our own shelves and moving in over 250 boxes of books (some supplied by Tom, Nicely of Leaves of Grass Books), we opened the bookstore at 111 E. Ann Street, in the historical Kerrytown section of Ann Arbor, Michigan, after a shelving and pizza party for family and friends who helped us. Our first day resulted in $24 in sales. We had better days since. John left for the Law School a few years later, but is always around to help out when we need him.

In 2006, a slightly larger space on a well traveled street around the corner became available, via the same landlord.  In October we started moving  into 212 N. 4th Avenue, another old attractive building that had housed a non-starter restaurant and then a successful a consultant firm. We weeded out over 3000 books, and then loaded up furniture, hardware, and many boxes of books on carts,  again with the help of friends and family, and ran a "Red Ball Express" for 2 solid days between the two locations. Our first day we had over $400 in sales. We've had better days since.

We've also had a few changes since. Our in-store sales have greatly overtaken our web sales. We've added shelves, prints, ephemera, and a couple more map cases. Paul left the business to return to Kansas and take care of family, but thankfully still comes back for celebrations. We've added better window displays and a few typewriters. We have 4 reading groups on various history subjects, sold a rare First printing of the Book of Mormon and around 100,000 other books, and made a lot of new friends while keeping our old ones. We still advise customers on buying books,  how best to sell them then they need to, and how to manage their collections for better enjoyment .

Most importantly, we still enjoy one of the greatest jobs in one of the greatest book towns with some of the greatest book people in the country.

What is Important to Us

Good service, good books, and good information. When you ask us about a book, if we don't have it we will find someone who does have it. If you want us to order if for you we will, but getting you the book you want is your top priority.  We also seek to purchase, sell, and recommend the better books in the areas we cover. "Better" is a subjective term, but we use a variety of professional and personal criteria to choose our books, and rely greatly on recommendations from our knowledgeable customers. Good information is especially important to us, and we do our best to describe books we list on our site with great care and attention to detail. We can also send you digital camera images of our more uncommon or collectible books if you need them. 

Who We Are

We originally started as a triumvirate, but John Murphy II has moved on to legal and literary pastures, and we hope to see him in print soon. You might see him at the shop occasionally helping us out. The remaining partners are:

Gene Alloway
Originally From Kansas, Gene has degrees in classical history and librarianship, and has worked in a number of areas, from oil fields to academic libraries. He is the primary appraiser of the shop, and the specialist in books about books, antiquarian books, prints, military history, and classical history. He is a so-so frisbee player, and has an avid interest in the history of libraries, focusing on the destruction of libraries and lost books. He was one of the founding board members of the Kerrytown BookFest.

Paul Hare

Born in Oklahoma, Paul has degrees in medieval history and education. He is the primary cataloger for the shop, and the specialist for religion, medieval history, philosophy, early modern Europe, and literature. He is an avid frisbee player, and has an avid interest in mythology, especially monsters of legend. Paul is back in Kansas now, but keeps a hand in the buying side of business.