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a volume of systematically selected materials in a given branch of knowledge. It may consist of selected literary, scientific, scholarly, or publicist works, of selected memoirs, or of excerpts from such works; it may also consist of selected documents. The materials in a chrestomathy are generally selected in accordance with the instructional goals for a specific subject in a given type of educational institution or in a program of self-education. The first chrestomathy was a collection of selected passages from the works of Greek writers compiled by the Greek grammarian Helladios (fourth century A.D).
Prerevolutionary Russian schools used many chrestomathies, in which the selection and arrangement of the materials were oriented toward the study of literary theory. There were also chrestomathies dealing with the history of literature and chrestomathies whose contents were linked according to theme, genre, or topical similarity.
Soviet secondary and higher educational institutions use chrestomathies whose content focuses on sociopolitical disciplines, mathematics and the natural sciences, literature, linguistics, and art. Chrestomathies dealing with methodology, the history of education, extracurricular activities, and preschool upbringing are published for students at pedagogical higher educational institutions and pedagogical schools and for teachers in public schools. The most common types of chrestomathies are the literary chrestomathies used in secondary and higher educational institutions.
Texts in chrestomathies are often accompanied by brief information about the author and by brief commentaries. The scholarly apparatus in chrestomathies for higher educational institutions is similar to that in scholarly editions. In the upper grades of secondary general-education schools, specialized secondary educational institutions, and some departments of higher educational institutions, chrestomathies are used together with textbooks and teaching aids. In the middle (fourth to seventh) grades, literary chrestomathies are used independently as textbooks.
Another type of chrestomathy is the reader used in the primary grades, entitled Our Native Language (Rodnaia rech’). These readers include articles on history, geography, and the natural sciences, in addition to literary works or excerpts from them. The traditional models for such chrestomathies are K. D. Ushinskii’s primers Our Native Language (1864) and The Children’s World (1861).
Other works considered to be chrestomathies include collections of selected documents and materials for reference use, readers with adapted or original texts in foreign languages, readers intended for self-education in a given branch of knowledge, and anthologies containing selected works from a given literature or in a given literary genre.