We used a cell-free system with pure Escherichia coli components to study initial codon selection of aminoacyl-tRNAs in ternary complex with elongation factor Tu and GTP on messenger RNA-programmed ribosomes. We took advantage of the universal rate-accuracy trade-off for all enzymatic selections to determine how the efficiency of initial codon readings decreased linearly toward zero as the accuracy of discrimination against near-cognate and wobble codon readings increased toward the maximal asymptote, the d value. We report data on the rate-accuracy variation for 7 cognate, 7 wobble, and 56 near-cognate codon readings comprising about 15% of the genetic code. Their d values varied about 400-fold in the 200-80,000 range depending on type of mismatch, mismatch position in the codon, and tRNA isoacceptor type. We identified error hot spots (d = 200) for U:G misreading in second and U:U or G:A misreading in third codon position by His-tRNA(His) and, as also seen in vivo, Glu-tRNA(Glu). We suggest that the proofreading mechanism has evolved to attenuate error hot spots in initial selection such as those found here.