for archival purposes, here comes a summary of the issue:
big oasis-open/cals tables, i.e. tables with more than ca.
500 rows cause Saxon 6.5.3 and Xalan 2.5.2 to throw an
StackOverflowError, no matter how much stack size is
allocated. i am not sure whether the problem is with the
processors, or Java.
note that MSXML3 (not sure about the version) does handle
note as well that oXygen's xslt debugger is also able to
convert the table using Saxon 6.5.3, after warning you
that a possible infinite loop has been detected (you have
to say yes, you want to continue anyway).
apparently, the cause for this is in the recursiveness of
the stylesheets used. I used the Docbook xsl stylesheets
1.65.1 which include oasis-open/cals table transformation
i've been given a stylesheet which conforms to xslt2, and
can be run with Saxon 7 which does the transformation. it
is "tail-recursive" which means less stack is used. i
have successfully used it for a table of 1753 rows. it is
still long, i.e. ca. 12 minutes on a P4 2.4GHz with 512MB.
obviously, it would have been nice to stay with xslt1, and
to do it quicker, but hey, it works!
John Mullee wrote and has me provided with the stylesheet,
thanks a lot! All the other people on docbook-apps and
saxon-help who took the time to respond, thank you!
Norman Walsh and team for their xslt docbook stylesheets
(i'm still using the table stylesheets for all "normal"
 on the saxon-help mailing list, search for this title
"OASIS-Open/CALS *big* table conversion problems", for
posts related to this issue. May 2004 is not archived
yet, so I can't give exact urls.
 with John's permission: his stylesheet, the table in
question, the output etc. are available on his site (via