In the opening paragraph to “The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Watson writes:
The story has, I believe, been told more than once in the newspapers, but, like all such narratives, its effect is much less striking when set forth en bloc in a single half-column of print than when the facts slowly evolve before your own eyes, and the mystery clears gradually away as each new discovery furnishes a step which leads on to the complete truth.
I was curious about this "half-column" reference. After several searches I found many other contextually similar references to both "half-column" and "half column" referring to the printed word, perhaps implying concision or something similar, but no definition for this phrase that fit these contexts.
I do understand how newspapers and simlar periodicals have traditionally been formatted, and being a bit of a graphic design enthusiast I started down that avenue and eventually concluded that the "half" was in reference to the length being half a page. This is supported by similar specifications such as "double half column" and "triple half column" which mean two or three columns wide respectively, and half a page in length, and "quarter column" which is a single column wide and quarter page long.
But then in another instance that I encountered it seems to be used figuratively:
About Printing-house Square, mayhap you may light on an honest man, a squeamish man, a proper moral man, a man that shall talk you Latin by the half-column if you will but hear him.
I am not familiar with the text but apparently it's from "The Kickleburys on the Rhine" by William Makepeace Thackeray:
Given what I could find I drew the conclusion that "half-column" literally means one column of text (about 1-1/2" or 4 cm in width in period relevant print media), half a page long, and can be used metaphorically, perhaps meaning terse.
If anyone has an actual dictionary definition, or source they can cite, then I would grateful for a clarification, expansion, or refutation of my conclusion. I thank you in advance.